'He was holding an axe': Chan Chun Sing recaps River Valley High School incident

Students seen leaving the River Valley High School campus on 19 July. (PHOTO: Nicholas Yong / Yahoo News Singapore)
Students seen leaving the River Valley High School campus on 19 July. (PHOTO: Nicholas Yong / Yahoo News Singapore)

SINGAPORE — The students who encountered the murder suspect involved in last week's killing at River Valley High School (RVHS) responded immediately by applying the emergency lockdown drills they had been taught.

"The students’ immediate response was to apply the emergency ‘Run-Hide-Tell’ lockdown drill – they went into their classroom, locked the doors from within and quickly called their form teachers for help," said Education Minister Chan Chun Sing in a Ministerial Statement delivered in Parliament on Tuesday (27 July).

On 19 July, police arrested a 16-year-old male RVHS student for his suspected involvement in the death of a fellow 13-year-old male student on campus. Police said an axe was seized as a case exhibit.

The suspect was charged at the State Courts with murder the following day and has since been remanded for psychiatric assessment.

What happened

In his Ministerial Statement, Chan said that at around 11.35am, towards the end of lunch break, a group of RVHS students encountered the 16-year-old suspect outside a toilet.

"He was holding an axe. He asked them to call the police. The students returned to their classroom and immediately informed their teacher," said the minister.

The suspect later made the same request to another group of students who were in the classroom next to the toilet. These students responded by applying the "Run-Hide-Tell" drill, a form of training meant to prepare students for incidents of terrorism and school intrusions.

Chan said that a teacher who was first to arrive at the scene instructed the suspect to put down the axe. The suspect complied and was then escorted away to a meeting room.

Other teachers then called the police and checked the said toilet. Police officers arrived at the scene within 10 minutes and took the suspect into custody.

Singapore Civil Defence Force paramedics found the 13-year-old victim lying motionless in the toilet with multiple wounds. He was pronounced dead at the scene.

"Once the situation was under control, the principal broke the news to the rest of her staff, before speaking with the students. She shared that a serious incident had happened and asked all students to contact their parents to assure them that they were safe," said Chan.

He added that the principal then spoke to the students most affected by the incident, while other teachers came forward to lend their support and assistance.

For students who were interviewed by the police, parental consent was sought and every student was accompanied by a teacher throughout the process, noted Chan.

Other parents were informed about the incident via the Parents Gateway and advised to look out for their children once they were dismissed by their school for the day.

From 3.15pm students were progressively dismissed, while teachers were stationed at the school's gates to assist students and give parents assurance.

Parents were informed of the student's death by evening and those concerned for their child's wellbeing were encouraged to contact the form teachers to "work out ways to support their children both at home and in school", said Chan.

Praise for RVHS students, staff

In his speech, Chan also praised RVHS students and staff for how they responded to the incident.

"The students executed the “Run-Hide-Tell” steps exactly as they were trained to do in times of emergencies. To the students, thank you for showing care and compassion to one another," he said.

Chan noted that RVHS teachers had also demonstrated courage and acted swiftly when they engaged the suspect while also keeping their students' safety as their first priority.

He added that the school's principal had also returned from medical leave to personally handle the incident. "Your presence helped to calm the school community," said Chan.

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