River Valley High School death: Sec 4 boy arrested over alleged murder of Sec 1 boy on campus

A student of River Valley High School was allegedly killed on campus on July 19, 2021.
A student of River Valley High School was allegedly killed on campus on July 19, 2021.PHOTOS: SCREENGRAB FROM GOOGLE MAPS, MARK CHEONG
A police car is seen at the entrance of River Valley High School on July 19, 2021.
A police car is seen at the entrance of River Valley High School on July 19, 2021.ST PHOTO: MARK CHEONG
A bouquet of flowers left at the back gate of River Valley High School on July 19, 2021.
A bouquet of flowers left at the back gate of River Valley High School on July 19, 2021. ST PHOTO: MARK CHEONG
A Health Sciences Authority van arrives at River Valley High School on July 19, 2021.
A Health Sciences Authority van arrives at River Valley High School on July 19, 2021.ST PHOTO: MARK CHEONG

SINGAPORE – A 13-year-old Secondary 1 student of River Valley High School (RVHS) was killed on campus on Monday (July 19) allegedly by a 16-year-old Secondary 4 student.

Police said they received a call for assistance at about 11.40am, and when officers arrived at the scene, they found a 13-year-old lying motionless with multiple wounds in a toilet.

The teenager was pronounced dead at the scene by a Singapore Civil Defence Force paramedic. The alleged teen assailant was arrested and an axe was seized as evidence.

The Straits Times spoke to a parent – Mr Huang, a 43-year-old who works in the IT industry – who said he rushed to the school after receiving a message from his daughter in Year 1 that there was someone allegedly wielding an axe in the school.

He showed ST the text message he received from his daughter at 11.50am, and a video of students running in the school compound.

She texted him about five minutes later, saying the situation was under control. But he said he drove from his home in Pasir Ris to the school located in Boon Lay Avenue anyway.

When ST arrived at the school at about 1pm, a crime scene investigation van, an ambulance and at least four police vehicles were already there. 

Staff said there was supposed to be a lunch break at 1pm, but the students were told to remain in their classrooms instead. No explanation was offered.

The back gate was also closed off, but some students who needed to leave the campus were allowed to do so after 2pm. The rest were gathered at the school hall and briefed by school staff.

At about 3pm, the rest of the students were allowed to leave the school compound. Several parents were already at the school waiting to pick up their children. A Health Sciences Authority (HSA) van arrived at the scene at about 3.30pm with a forensic science team.

A mother, who wanted to be known only as Madam Chin, said she received a call from her daughter, who is in Secondary 3, at about noon. The 40-year-old, who arrived at the school at 4pm, said her daughter was sobbing on the phone when she called.

The student was unclear about the threat but said she was moved to another classroom, to a safe place with teachers around her. She told her mother she will be released by the school at about 4pm.


Police personnel with boxes to gather evidence at River Valley High School on July 19, 2021. ST PHOTO: MARK CHEONG

The ST team saw the students ushered out at about 4pm, but the school had advised parents, students and staff not to speak to the media.

Education Minister Chan Chun Sing released a statement at 4.25pm, saying his ministry is working closely with the Singapore Police Force on the investigations.

“We are all shocked to receive news of the tragic incident at River Valley High School this morning,” he said, adding that the safety and well-being of students and staff are of paramount importance.

In a statement, the Ministry of Education and River Valley High School said they were deeply saddened by the loss of one of the students, and are extending their fullest support to his family. 

“The school has also reached out to students, parents and staff to provide counselling support and the necessary assistance to ensure their well-being,” MOE said, adding that it works closely with schools to ensure campus security. 

“As police investigations are ongoing, we are unable to comment further. In this hour of grief, we urge the public to accord his family privacy and respect.”

RVHS has students aged between 12 and 18, as it offers the six-year Integrated Programme, which allows students to skip the O levels and instead take the A levels in their sixth year.


Students are seen standing outside the school hall at River Valley High School on July 19, 2021. ST PHOTO: MARK CHEONG

The school, which marks its 65th year this year, was selected as a Special Assistance Plan school in 1979. It is a popular school and has produced a number of government scholarship holders.

Police in their statement said the two teenagers were not known to each other. They added that the 16-year-old will be charged with murder, with a view to seek a court order to remand him for psychiatric assessment.

Under the Criminal Procedure Code, those under 18 who commit capital crimes are sentenced to life imprisonment, and must serve a minimum period of 20 years before being considered for release.


Getting help

National Care Hotline: 1800-202-6868 (8am - 12am)

Mental well-being

Fei Yue’s Online Counselling Service: eC2.sg website (Mon to Fri, 10am to 12pm, 2pm to 5pm)
Institute of Mental Health’s Mental Health Helpline: 6389-2222 (24 hours)
Samaritans of Singapore:  1800-221-4444 (24 hours) /1-767 (24 hours)
Singapore Association for Mental Health: 1800-283-7019 (Mon to Fri, 9am to 6pm) 
Silver Ribbon Singapore: 6386-1928/6509-0271  (Mon to Fri, 9am to 6pm)
Tinkle Friend: 1800-274-4788 (Mon to Fri, 2.30pm to 5pm)/ Tinkle Friend website (Mon to Thu, 2.30pm to 7pm and Fri, 2.30pm to 5pm)

Counselling

TOUCHline (Counselling): 1800-377-2252  (Mon to Fri, 9am to 6pm)
Care Corner Counselling Centre (Mandarin): 1800-353-5800 (Daily, 10am to 10pm)


Past cases of campus attacks

2009 NTU stabbing, suicide

An Indonesian final-year undergraduate, 21, fell four storeys to his death moments after he allegedly stabbed the supervisor of his final-year project in his office with a knife.

The alleged attack occurred on March 2, 2009 during a meeting to discuss the project with the professor. The student is said to have stabbed the professor from the back before falling from a bridge at the Nanyang Technological University (NTU) campus.

The student's death was ruled a suicide following a coroner's inquiry that spanned 10 days and involved more than 30 witnesses.

2015 ITE West slashing

A then 17-year-old student slashed another teenager with a bread knife on the Institute of Technical Education (ITE) West campus on March 9, 2015 in an attack sparked by a dispute over the victim's girlfriend.

The lunchtime attack, which was caught on a video that was widely shared, left the victim with cuts on his left forearm, left fingers, upper back, and behind his left ear. The victim also suffered fractures in his forearm and two fingers.

The perpetrator was given reformative training following an appeal.

• Jean Iau