Suspect in RVHS Murder to Plead Guilty & Might Face Life Imprisonment


A teenager accused of killing a fellow River Valley High School (RVHS) student is set to plead guilty to culpable homicide not amounting to murder. The incident shocked Singapore in July 2021 and resulted in the victim’s death.

The accused is set to enter his next court hearing in August 2023. Charged initially with murder, he now faces a charge of culpable homicide not amounting to murder.

This would mean either life imprisonment with caning, a jail term of 20 years, fined or caned, or a combination of such punishments for the accused.

Now 18, the accused would be subjected to caning if deemed fit.

RVHS Death

On 19 July 2021, reports that the accused had slashed a 13-year-old Secondary One RVHS student on campus made waves across Singapore.

While still holding on to his axe, the accused told other students from the school calmly to report him shortly after committing the crime.

Police then received a call for assistance at about 11.40 am, where they found the victim lying motionless with multiple wounds in a toilet upon arriving.

Shortly after the police arrived, teachers asked students to stay in the classroom without explanation.

Certain students had witnessed the incident, prompting their parents to rush to the school compound to pick them up after receiving their anxious calls.

A Singapore Civil Defence Force paramedic pronounced the teenager dead at the scene. The teen assailant got arrested and policed seized the axe as evidence.

The accused, who committed the crime when he was 16, is covered under the Children and Young Persons Act and cannot be named. The motive for the attack is still unclear, as the two teenagers did not know each other. 

Mental Health Concerns

Singaporeans have watched the case closely as it raised concerns about the safety of students in schools and sparked a nationwide debate on mental health issues. 

This came shortly after reports stated that the accused had attempted suicide in 2019, two years before the incident, causing him to be remanded at the Complex Medical Center at Changi Prison, where he underwent a psychiatric evaluation to determine his mental state of health. 

The findings from the psychiatric assessment were not revealed.

However, even if found to have a mental condition, his sentence would not necessarily be affected. The Criminal Procedure Code states that the severity of a sentence is determined primarily by the harm caused by the offence and how responsible the offender can be held for said offence. 

A mental condition doesn’t always result in reduced responsibility for a crime. There needs to be a connection between the condition and the conduct that led to the offence.


For instance, if the accused’s mental condition prevented them from properly forming an intention, the charges for their offence might be less severe. 

Other factors that could affect the sentence include whether the accused had knowledge of specific facts about the crime or whether they acted recklessly, rashly, or negligently.

As the accused allegedly used the axe to slash the victim’s neck, head and body multiple times, courts have observed that he conducted the crime with the intent to cause the younger boy’s death.

The accused, who has been in remand since the incident, took his O-level examinations as a private candidate while in custody. 

Moving on From the Incident

After the incident, they revealed that 540 employees and students from RVHS sought psychological support from 98 officers and MOE counsellors who trained in psychological first aid and trauma management.


Fast-forward one year, River Valley High School has since cultivated an even stronger sense of community among its students with the unwavering support of its teachers, staff, Parent-Teacher Association, and other stakeholders.

The school has reinforced its peer support structure, where students actively watch out for and assist their peers’ well-being. They have also hired additional counsellors to conduct regular mental well-being talks for the students. 

Furthermore, the students and staff have transformed the school’s spaces, events, and programmes to create a warm and welcoming environment.

Despite the tragic incident, the students have continued participating in various school experiences, such as orientations, hikes, learning journeys, the Singapore Youth Festival, and the National School Games.

Additionally, the school has set up a student development hub, providing students with one-stop access to wellness services and a student activity centre, creating more areas for student-led activities.

Governmental Mental Health Support Strengthened After Incident

Following the incident at RVHS, the Ministry of Education (MOE) has also taken multiple steps to improve its mental health resources across all schools in Singapore to address concerns among parents and the Singaporean community.


Since July 2021, they have deployed 130 more teachers as teacher-counsellors in schools across Singapore. Minister of Education, Mr Chan Chun Sing, also shared that an expected number of 1,000 more will be deployed over the next few years. 

He added that schools in Singapore are now expected to dedicate further time and space to look out for the well-being of students at the start of every school term. MOE has also progressively strengthened teachers’ mental health literacy through further professional development.

This incident also inspired Mr Chan Chun Sing, along with other members of PAP, to launch the #BetterTogether movement hopes to spark a change in attitudes towards poor mental health awareness by soliciting ideas for collective action through social media.