River Valley High School death: Teen, 18, sentenced to 16 years' jail to killing schoolmate with axe in 2021

Assailant had suffered from major depressive disorder, and wanted to slash people in school so police could shoot him to death

River Valley High School.
River Valley High School. (FILE PHOTO: Yahoo News Singapore)

SINGAPORE — The River Valley High School student who killed a fellow student with an axe on campus in 2021 has pleaded guilty and was sentenced to 16 years' jail on Friday (1 December).

The youth, now 18 years old, cannot be named as he had committed the offence when he was a minor under the age of 18. However, the court lifted the gag order on the identity of the victim at the request of his parents, naming him as Ethan Hun Zhe Kai.

The accused was originally handed a murder charge, but it was reduced to culpable homicide not amounting to murder in February. He has been in remand since the incident, and took his O-Level examinations as a private candidate while in custody.

The prosecution, which described the case as "truly unprecedented", had sought 12 to 16 years' jail for the offender. The defence had asked for five years' imprisonment. The jail sentence handed down by Justice Hoo Sheau Peng is backdated to the day of his arrest.

Planned to slash people so police could shoot him to death

The court heard that the offender suffered from major depressive disorder at the time of the killing incident, and had also watched online videos that desensitised him to the taking of a life. He planned to commit suicide by slashing people in school, so the police could shoot him to death.

On 14 July 2021, he took the axe and a knife to school in a badminton bag, which he hid under a sink in the toilet, but failed to follow through with his plan. He tried again five days later, and at about 11.15am on 19 July, he left his classroom and waited in the toilet, and used the axe to repeatedly slash Ethan Hun, who had entered the toilet.

The two were not known to each other. The offender said he felt “catharsis and regret” after the killing.

At about 11.35am, he left the toilet with the axe. He asked a few groups of students to call the police, but they ran away from him. A few minutes later, he was approached by a female teacher and dropped the axe as he was told. She kicked the weapon away from him.

A male teacher arrived at the scene, moved the axe further away from the offender, and stood between him and the axe. The boy was escorted to the school's general office and arrested when the police and Singapore Civil Defence Force arrived at about 11.50am.

Ministerial statement on impact on school community

The incident prompted an outpouring of grief and shock among the public, and Education Minister Chan Chun Sing delivered a ministerial statement in Parliament on 27 July 2021 on the impact on the school community and the psychological support given to students and staff.

Ethan’s parents were not in court, but their lawyer Mervyn Cheong delivered a statement on their behalf.

“We are heartbroken. We believe many who know Ethan will be too. Yet, we want to encourage everyone to remember Ethan fondly instead. Remember him for his goodness, his kind heart, and his peace-loving nature. Remember that he would want us to be happy," the statement read.

If you have thoughts of suicide or are feeling distressed, you can call the Samaritans of Singapore's 24-hour hotline at 1767. You can also email

Do you have a story tip? Email:

You can also follow us on Facebook, Instagram, TikTok and Twitter. Also check out our Southeast Asia, Food, and Gaming channels on YouTube.

Yahoo Singapore Telegram
Yahoo Singapore Telegram