Differing accounts of decision to pull teen from camp

The entrance of North View Secondary School.
The entrance of North View Secondary School. ST PHOTO: NEO XIAOBIN

Whether it was his school or mother who decided to pull Benjamin Lim out of a school camp he was due to attend has become a point of dispute in the coroner's inquiry looking into his death.

The school's counsellor, Madam Karry Lung, insists she simply suggested to the teenager's mother that he be pulled from the camp. But his mother said the school had already made the decision and simply informed her of it over the phone.

Benjamin, 14, was found dead at the foot of his block minutes after his mother told him he would not be attending the camp for Secondary 3 students.

At 4.13pm on Jan 26, Benjamin's mother was mopping the floor at home when she received a call from the school counsellor, State Counsel Wong Woon Kwong told the court yesterday.

According to Madam Lung, she called Mrs Lim to convey the school's suggestion that it would be good for Benjamin to be with his family instead of attending the three-day camp for his cohort.

The camp was scheduled to begin the next day, on Jan 27.

 
 
 

Madam Lung explained that she and her colleagues, including the school principal and two senior teachers, felt it might be better for Benjamin not to go as his physical and emotional state could have been affected. The camp was also in Pasir Panjang, and it could have been inconvenient if Benjamin had to help with further investigations.

She said that when she called Mrs Lim, Benjamin's mother agreed with the suggestion that he stay at home.

According to the State Counsel, Madam Lung sent an e-mail at 4.28pm to inform the principal of the telephone exchange. But he also revealed that Mrs Lim gave a different account of what happened.

She said the counsellor had informed her of the school's decision not to let Benjamin attend the school camp, and wanted him to stay at home to do e-learning instead. This was what Mrs Lim told the first responders at the scene of Benjamin's death.

After the phone call, Mrs Lim told her son that he was not allowed to attend the camp. He said okay and continued playing games on his mobile phone.

Five minutes later, Mrs Lim found the door to his room locked. She opened it with a spare key but he was not inside. She rushed downstairs and found him dead.

Seow Bei Yi

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on May 18, 2016, with the headline 'Differing accounts of decision to pull teen from camp'. Print Edition | Subscribe