Kidnap scares: Police rule out abduction attempts, say drivers were trying to be helpful by offering lifts

Tanglin Trust School at Portsdown Road on Jan 17. Police have investigated and said the cases involving students at Tanglin Trust School and United World College of South East Asia were not kidnap attempts. ST PHOTO: KUA CHEE SIONG

SINGAPORE - The two incidents in which international school students claimed they were being lured into vehicles were not cases of attempted kidnapping but instances of drivers trying to be helpful by offering the students a lift.

The police gave updates on Thursday (Jan 18) on the two cases even as two other international schools this week sent out alerts over similar incidents.

In a statement, the police said they have thoroughly investigated the two cases reported on Jan 11 and Jan 16, involving a student from United World College of South East Asia and one from Tanglin Trust School respectively. The reported incidents had sparked fears of kidnapping attempts - which the police have now ruled out.

In the first case on Jan 11, the male driver had offered a ride to the student from United World College of South East Asia as it was raining that day, said the police.

"The parent of the student had been updated on the findings, and they were relieved that it was a case of misunderstanding," they added.

In the second case on Jan 16, a female bus attendant on a school bus from Tanglin Trust School had noticed the student wearing the uniform of Tanglin Trust School walking towards the school.

"As the school bus was going to the school, the female bus attendant offered the student a ride. The school bus, however, did not bear the name or logo of the school," said the police.

"The student declined the offer as she had earlier read a school circular advising them to be wary of strangers offering rides to students." At Tanglin Trust School, drivers need to have special passes identifying themselves as parents or guardians to enter the compound.

The police said they have clarified with the student that no person had alighted from the school bus to persuade her to board it.

"The police have established that these two unrelated reports were not cases of attempted kidnapping. In both cases, the occupants of the vehicles were trying to be helpful by offering a lift to the students," they added.

The police also referred to another incident involving a student from Dulwich College reported by The Straits Times earlier on Thursday. Police said they have engaged the college to advise the student to make a police report.

The college in Bukit Batok sent out a letter informing parents of an incident in December, where one of its students was approached by a stranger offering a lift.

In the letter sent on Thursday morning, Dulwich headmaster Nick Magnus said a senior school student heading home from school was approached in the vicinity of Farrer Road. The student, understood to be a boy, declined the offer and continued on his journey home, arriving safely.

The boy is understood to have revealed the incident after reports of two other international students who were offered lifts by strangers.

The police are also investigating another incident reported on Wednesday by the Nexus International School, located in Ulu Pandan.

In a letter sent to parents, the school said a female student was approached by two men in a vehicle at Old Holland Road on her walk home from school on Monday. It said the men were "quite persistent" despite her refusal to get into the car.

Remote video URL

The police said they treat such reports seriously. "However, we urge members of the public not to speculate or spread unsubstantiated information which may generate unnecessary public alarm," the police statement said.

The incidents have opened up a debate about whether people offering lifts to children should be aware that their actions, although meant well, will alarm the children.

Students and parents interviewed by The Straits Times on Thursday said they would still be cautious and the children should not accept lifts from strangers. One of them, a parent with a teenage daughter in Dulwich, said: "I would still tell my daughter never to accept a lift from a stranger, even if it is someone who looks non-threatening."

Several international schools, along with Fairfield Methodist Primary School, which is in Dover Road, have sent out letters to parents urging them to be vigilant and to take precautions.

Join ST's WhatsApp Channel and get the latest news and must-reads.