Open letter from Benjamin’s family to clarify what transpired on 26 January


The family members of 14-year-old Benjamin Lim have passed an open letter to The Online Citizen to be published, hoping that it can clarify and provide certain information on the chain of events leading to their son's death on 26 January (Tuesday).

The family also thanks everyone who have came forward to show their support to Benjamin. They have created an email account dedicated to Benjamin, [email protected] and welcome friends and members of public to write to them.

Note - The yahoo email has been terminated for some reason by someone and the family no longer can access the account. So please direct all emails to the new account and if you have previously sent an email to the family, please re-send the letter again.

The letter from Benjamin's family in full

The family of Benjamin Lim wish to express our deepest gratitude and appreciation to all friends, relatives and members of the public for your kind expression of sympathy in our time of great sorrow. There have been reports in various publications offering different versions of occurrences leading to the passing of Benjamin. This letter seeks to clarify and also provide certain information on the chain of events leading to the tragedy on 26 January 2016.

In the morning of 26 January 2016, Benjamin’s mother received a call from his mobile number. One police officer spoke to her and informed that Benjamin was being investigated for a case of “outrage of modesty” involving one 11-year-old Chinese girl outside school in the afternoon of 25 January 2016. The officer informed that Benjamin would be taken to Ang Mo Kio police station for further investigation. Benjamin’s mother asked to speak to her son, of which then the phone was given back to Benjamin. However, they (mother and son) did not managed to speak for long before phone was taken away. According to Benjamin’s mother, the officer informed that police will be contacting the family in the afternoon when Benjamin is allowed to leave the police station.

Benjamin’s mother and elder sister then rushed to the school, arrived at about 11am. At that point,  Benjamin had already left the school with police officers. They spoke to the discipline master and school counsellor, and were informed that Benjamin was taken to Ang Mo Kio police station to assist in investigation. When asked for details, the staffs were only able to reveal that Benjamin was identified via a CCTV footage captured at the lift lobby in one of the HDB blocks.

On the same day at about 1pm, Benjamin’s mother received a call from Ang Mo Kio Police Division HQ informing that Benjamin was arrested and that family members may proceed to the police station to bail him out. Mother and daughter then rushed to the police station, and were told to wait at the reception area. After some time, one officer led Benjamin’s mother to the investigation office for recording of statement. It was until about 2.50pm when Benjamin was finally brought out to meet his mother and sister.

Benjamin’s mother noted that he appeared quiet, and his hands were uncomfortably cold after they left the police station. She then asked him about the alleged offence, he denied. When asked why he admitted to the police when he did not do it, he said “they said I am guilty, so I am guilty lor”. Benjamin was then told that he should not have admitted to the crime if he did not do it. Their conversation ended then as the train was approaching.

Benjamin, together with mother and sister, they went home directly. Having sensed that Benjamin was rather quiet and not his usual self, the mother got him to shower while she prepared a meal for him. She then left him alone at the dining hall, and made no further query about the offence he was alleged to have committed. It was until about 4.13pm after Benjamin’s mother received a call from the school counsellor to convey the message that the school has decided that Benjamin will not be attending the Secondary Three School Cohort Camp from 27 to 29 January 2016, and that was when they last spoke. Benjamin was told of the decision by the school’s authorities.

After a while, the mother called for Benjamin but there was no answer. Mother and sister then knocked on the bedroom door and realised that it was locked. That was the first time the door was locked. After they managed to enter into the room, there was no sign of Benjamin. One desktop fan which was supposed to be on the table; was on the floor and the window was open. They then rushed to the void deck, and Benjamin was lying motionless on the ground with his head facing down.

It was initially reported that family members had received timely updates from police and school authorities after Benjamin was taken away by five plainclothes police officers in two unmarked police vehicles. This statement was not accurate.

Benjamin’s mother was informed by police officer for the first time in the morning when Benjamin was already taken to the principle’s office. The police officer merely informed her that Benjamin would be taken to Ang Mo Kio police station for further investigation, and that the police will contact the family in the afternoon when he would be allowed to leave.

When the mother and sister arrived at the school, they were told by the discipline master and school counsellor that Benjamin was identified by CCTV footages and that no other information could be revealed. The next contact with the police was at Ang Mo Kio Police Division HQ, after the mother received a call to inform that Benjamin was arrested and she should bail him out. It should be noted at this point that the mother was taken to the investigator’s office (open plan office) for statement recording rather than being allowed to see her son.

It was not until 2.50pm before mother and sister finally saw Benjamin after he was brought out to the reception area. Until then, there was no further contact from the school. The only call that the mother received from the school counsellor was at 4.13pm on the same day, which was to inform Benjamin that school authorities decided that he was to be excluded from the Secondary Three School Cohort Camp. After the tragic death of Benjamin at 4.20pm, the father called the school from 5pm to 6pm but was not able to speak to the principal. It was not until the next day afternoon that the principal responded and returned call to Benjamin’s father.

The police arranged a meeting on 1 February 2016 between the officers from Ang Mo Kio Police Division HQ, police headquarter and immediate family members, accompanied by Member of Parliament Mr. Louis Ng. Information was shared within acceptable limits. It was agreed between parties that discussion and information disclosed in the meeting be kept confidential until the investigation has fully completed.

There are now reports and statements from the relevant authorities that procedure will be subjected to review in regard to police questioning of minors without the presence of an adult. As Benjamin’s father, I felt this is necessary, but it came too late. It is necessary because we pray that the same treatment my son received from the police, will never ever happen again to another child.

The school, in my opinion, should never have handed over my son to five police officers during recess hours without having to wait for the arrival of family members. I hate to think of the amount of fear he had at that moment, how helpless he was then. To be escorted to the car park from the principle’s office, one student in uniform accompanied by a few adults in civilian clothes with police ID cards, how discreet this could be? I felt the embarrassment and the shame my son was subjected to.

As Benjamin’s father, it broke my heart when I later found out that my son was brought to the principle’s office with one bun on his hand; and a drink on the other from the school canteen.

I cannot understand why the teacher; or office staff did not allow my son to at least finish his food at the canteen before he or she brought him to the principle’s office. It was reported that my son was allowed to finish his breakfast before being taken to the police station. But that was after the interview. My boy had his last meal in the school, a cold bun.

Those adults that were with him at that moment, the police officers and staffs of Northview Secondary School, may I take this opportunity to tell you that my son would prefer to have his meal when it is hot.

When Benjamin finally left the police station at 2.50pm, he told his mother and sister that he was not given anything to eat, nothing to drink throughout the 3 or more hours of engagement with police investigators in the police station. At his age, my son gets hungry very fast after one meal. Just a cold bun and a drink, and we cannot be sure if he did finish the bun because he was under pressure then. Benjamin must be feeling hungry, thirsty, throughout the few hours he was with the police investigator. I can imagine the anxiety felt by my son throughout the ordeal.

As Benjamin’s father, it is now my duty to seek justice for my son. We do not know if he has indeed committed the alleged offence of “outrage of modesty” of the 11-year-old girl. Until the coroner hearing, we do not want to speculate whether the offence has indeed taken place.

That said, as parents we cannot forget and we cannot forgive the way my son was treated, from the school to the time he was in police custody. I have this to say to the school authorities. We as parents we entrusted our children to you. You have a duty to ensure that our children are appropriately taken care of, reasonably protected and have their interest in your priority.

To the police, I have to tell you that by sending 5 plainclothes officers to one secondary school in 2 unmarked police vehicles is never discreet. You are there to look for one secondary 3 student. You are not there to apprehend an adult suspect with full ability to escape or capable in single combat.

To Benjamin’s friends and team mates from the National Police Cadet Corps, thank you for the lovely cards and your encouraging words to SGT (NPCC) Benjamin Lim. To his colleagues from McDonald's, he loved his job and he was grateful to be part of the team. If the branch manager would allow, please give your consent for him to keep his staff’s ID card.

Last but not least, on behalf of the family, I thank everyone for coming forward to show their support to Benjamin. We have created an email account dedicated to Benjamin, [email protected]. Friends and members of public are welcome to write to us.