Coroner seeks further statements from boy's kin

North View Secondary School which 14-year-old Benjamin Lim attended.
North View Secondary School which 14-year-old Benjamin Lim attended.ST PHOTO: NEO XIAOBIN

The two-day inquiry into the death of 14-year-old Benjamin Lim closed yesterday with State Coroner Marvin Bay highlighting discrepancies in evidence, such as who made the decision to pull the boy from a school camp.

Asking for further statements to be taken from the teenager's mother and sister, he said it was important this "gap" be filled.

This issue has become a point of contention between Benjamin's parents and his school authorities.

After her call with the school counsellor, his mother told him that he would not be attending the camp the next day. Minutes later, he was found dead at the foot of their block. This happened on Jan 26, a few hours after the North View Secondary School student was arrested for the alleged molestation of an 11-year-old in a lift.

School counsellor Karry Lung said she told Mrs Lim of the school's suggestion that Benjamin not attend the camp, but his mother said she was merely informed of the school's decision. Benjamin's family cannot be named due to a gag order.

Yesterday, the Lims' lawyer expressed concern over how witnesses characterised Benjamin's behaviour when he called his mother to say he was to assist in investigations into a case of outrage of modesty.

On Jan 26, police had gone to Benjamin's school to look for a suspect later identified as him. In the principal's office, he called his mother to say the police were taking him to Ang Mo Kio Police Division. Both Inspector Poh Wee Teck, the officer who interviewed him, and Madam Lung suggested that Benjamin, who was calmer before, grew anxious as he spoke to his mother.

With Madam Lung back on the stand yesterday, lawyer Choo Zheng Xi, representing Benjamin's family, said it would be "very upsetting" to suggest the stress the teen appeared to be experiencing was related to his conversation with Mrs Lim, who was described as speaking loudly.

Referring to how she said Benjamin "started frowning and his replies became softer" when talking to his mother, Mr Choo said: "I want to clarify that you are not suggesting here that there was a correlation between Benjamin's mother speaking loudly and the significant stress that you observed".

Madam Lung said she could hear only Benjamin's reaction but not the conversation.

Insp Poh, who took the stand after Madam Lung, said he saw Benjamin cringe in the last exchange he had with his mother. After the teen hung up, Insp Poh saw that he was holding his phone "very tightly" and took the cellphone from him in a bid to relieve his stress. The next mention of the case will be next month.

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on May 19, 2016, with the headline 'Coroner seeks further statements from boy's kin'. Print Edition | Subscribe