Benjamin Lim case: He took pride in NPCC and was an obedient son

Above: Benjamin's room, which he shared with his brother and sister. Right: The family has put his photos in a cabinet below the altar in their home, along with tributes from his friends.
The family has put his photos in a cabinet below the altar in their home, along with tributes from his friends.ST PHOTOS: ONG WEE JIN, SEOW BEI YI
Above: Benjamin's room, which he shared with his brother and sister. Right: The family has put his photos in a cabinet below the altar in their home, along with tributes from his friends.
Benjamin's room, which he shared with his brother and sister. ST PHOTOS: ONG WEE JIN, SEOW BEI YI

Most people remember Benjamin Lim as a schoolboy whose death prompted a relook at how young people are treated in police investigations. But to his loved ones, he will always be the obedient son who willingly took up part-time work to supplement the family's income, and a young man who took great pride in his uniformed group.

The 14-year-old was found motionless at the foot of his Yishun block on Jan 26, hours after being questioned by the police for a case of alleged molestation. His death led to an ongoing review of police and school protocols.

It has been seven months since the incident, but it still bring tears to his mother's eyes. Said her husband, 47, who is self-employed: "Things will never be the same." The family declined to be identified.

Benjamin, his younger son, was close to his mother and sister, and took pride in his uniformed group, Mr Lim told The Sunday Times during an interview in his home, a three-room flat in Yishun.

Tributes from Benjamin's friends, along with family photographs, are arranged neatly in a small cabinet below the altar in their home.

EXCITED OVER CAMP

One month before, he already started buying things... it was all for the camp. He had a list. Every night, he would count how many items he was short of.

MR LIM, Benjamin's father on how his son was looking forward to the school activity

When he was not at school, Benjamin worked part-time as a fast-food chain crew member - a job he found on his own initiative.

"He felt his pocket money was not enough for him to fill his tummy," said Mr Lim. "He asked for our permission, we granted it, and he went for his own interview... he was very happy (to be accepted)."

He later introduced his mother, a housewife, to the same job as a crew member, and the pair would work shifts together. Half of Benjamin's $200 to $300 monthly salary went to the household, said Mr Lim. The rest supplemented the $2.50 his parents gave him every day and went into his savings for items like a personal laptop. It also paid for his gear for his Secondary 3 cohort camp.

"He was looking forward to it; he worked for it," said Mr Lim."One month before, he already started buying things... it was all for the camp. He had a list. Every night, he would count how many items he was short of." Most of these items were buried with the schoolboy.

Benjamin had also been very proud of his co-curricular activity, the National Police Cadet Corps, said his father. He might have been introverted, but he liked the outdoors and got excited if there were school activities. "He supervised his mother when she ironed his uniform, and polished his own shoes," said Mr Lim, who received messages from Benjamin's NPCC friends after the incident. "They said he was a pillar of the NPCC, that they turned to him for advice and support."

Benjamin had also been keen to march at this year's National Day Parade, and was due to receive the rank of sergeant.

While the family was vocal in questioning the circumstances surrounding Benjamin's death, the past seven months have not been easy. As he had allegedly molested a girl, members of the public wrote to Mr Lim, saying things like: "What makes you think that he shouldn't die?" Others said he must have died due to guilt.

Mr Lim said such comments were very hurtful.

During the inquiry, school staff and a police officer said Benjamin showed signs of anxiety only after speaking to his mother on the phone, before leaving for the police station. This left Mrs Lim visibly upset during court proceedings.

Penning down her thoughts in a letter in Chinese in May, she wrote: "Benjamin was obedient and quiet, and usually did not talk much or share his deepest thoughts... From what I know of him, he could not have been frightened by my volume of speech (over the phone)."

While he did not expect the incident to receive this much attention, Mr Lim said it might have been good, in hindsight: "It does make people stop and think if procedures can be improved." But of his son's death, he said: "I don't think the family can ever get over it... A lot of questions are running through our minds."

Seow Bei Yi

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Sunday Times on August 28, 2016, with the headline 'He took pride in NPCC and was an obedient son'. Print Edition | Subscribe