Coroner's inquiry into Benjamin Lim's death: No warning signs that teen was suicidal

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

SINGAPORE - There were no warning signs that Benjamin Lim, 14, was depressed or suicidal from the time he was brought to the principal's office to when he left the police station the day he died, said State Counsel Wong Woon Kwong in his closing statements for a coroner's inquiry on Wednesday (Aug 3).

He added that there were "various malicious falsehoods about this case which have been irresponsibly published and circulated by third parties".

These include "wilfully misleading assertions" that said Benjamin was brought to the police station by five police officers, that he was interrogated for over three hours, and that officers who went to his school wore clothes and passes identifying themselves as the police.

A two-day inquiry into Benjamin's death on Jan 26 closed in May with State Coroner Marvin Bay highlighting discrepancies in evidence, such as who made the decision to pull the boy from a school camp.

Back then, it was revealed that Benjamin was told that he would not be attending the camp the next day after his mother's call with the school counsellor.

Minutes later, he was found dead at the foot of their block in Yishun. The North View Secondary School student was arrested earlier that day and questioned for allegedly molesting an 11-year-old girl 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 disputed this and said she was merely informed of the school's decision that he would not go.

Benjamin's family cannot be named due to a gag order.

Both Inspector Poh Wee Teck, the officer who interviewed Benjamin at school, and Madam Lung suggested that the student, who was calmer before, grew anxious as he spoke to his mother on the phone before leaving his school with the police.

State Counsel Wong said on Tuesday that Benjamin's denial of the alleged molest to his mother and sister "provides some glimpse of how (he) may have harboured concerns about the perceptions of those closest to him".

"But it is not possible simplistically to delve into the psyche of (Benjamin) to understand what prompted his actions at home which led to his death," he said.

"A multitude of factors can influence suicidal behaviour," he added, following further evidence obtained a doctor that showed he did not have known mental issues.

The State Counsel said as well that the police had taken steps to reduce unnecessary stress that Benjamin might face.

The school also took "active efforts" to watch out for the boy's interest and engage his mother, with the aim of getting her input about the school camp, he said.