Hello there. I am Terry and I am a full-time undergraduate based in Singapore. I take photos, write a blog and design websites.

And no, I'm not a teddy bear.

Aftermath: Stabbing incident in NTU

Everyone have their fair share of Monday blues, let alone this Monday, the first day after the one-week mid semester break in Nanyang Technological University (that’s where I’m currently pursuing my major). Someone didn’t take it well – a final-year undergraduate student stabbed an information engineering professor in the back with a knife and later leaped to his death at 10.30am.

A personal account

I remembered that our supposedly two-hour-long lecture ended early today – shortly an hour after it started. Mingyun, Marianne, Cho Yee and I had McDonalds and Subway for breakfast at around 9.45am. We chatted a little and headed for the library at around 10.30am, the time the incident occured. A couple of minutes into our studying schedule, Cho Yee informed us that there was a fatal stabbing incident on campus that just happened. The police and paramedics were there too, as another friend sent a mass SMS around.

The first thing that flashed across my mind was a knife-yielding student went berserk on campus, slashing everyone in his sight and one of his victim was so seriously injured that he/she died of inflicted wounds or blood loss. When I was informed that there was only one victim and it was a professor, the hairs on my back stood – the professor died of the stabbing?

It wasn’t until later in the afternoon that the local online community was boiling over with posts about the incident – David Hartanto Widjaja, a final-year undergraduate of the School of Electrical and Electronic Engineering, seriously wounded an information engineering professor, Prof Chan Kap Luk, by stabbing him in the back. Professor Chan defended himself with his hands (thus explaning the lacerations on his hand when he was checked by paramedics), David then fled to the sixth story (Level B1) of the S1 wing at South Spine, slit his wrist and leaped to his death. The marker on the map below shows the approximate locaiton of the scene:

Stabbing incident and suicide took place here. David stabbed professor in the back, dashed to the fifth floor, slitcome wrist and jumped on glass canopy of connecting walkway, and then leaped to his death.

From Channel News Asia, one of the first online newspaper that reported on the stabbing incident:

SINGAPORE: A final-year engineering student at the Nanyang Technological University (NTU) jumped from a campus block after stabbing a professor on Monday morning.

The professor was in his office at the engineering faculty when the student stabbed him in the back with a knife, leaving him injured.

After stabbing the professor, the male student – who was in his 20s – slit his wrists and jumped off a five-storey building.

David Hartanto Widjaja was a former president of the NTU Electronic Sports Club.

Professor Chan, a Singaporean in his 40s, was sent to the National University Hospital for treatment and is said to be in a stable condition.

The professor has been with NTU’s School of Electrical and Electronic Engineering since June 1992.

Professor Chan, who is Deputy Director of the Biomedical Engineering Research Centre at NTU, is said to have been the supervisor of the student in a project.

There are photos of the scene by Desmond Lim from Straits Times Singapore (thanks Chong for the link), but I’m not going to post any of the photos here. You might find some of the photos disturbing, so you’ve been warned.

Upon further investigation, I realised that Prof Chan is the supervisor of David’s final year project, titled “Multiview acquisition from Multi-camera configuration for person adaptive 3D Display“. Given that the final year projects for the final-year undergradutes are due in a week’s time or so, it’s not surprising that tension and pressure are mounting on the senior students – but what exactly triggered the Kamikaze-like attack was still largely unknown. A big question mark still hovers above the confusion and fear among the campus population.

Leaving library at 7pm, had dinner with Chong in Canteen A. As I waited for Chong to arrive, almost every single conversation around me revolved around the stabbing – what exaclty happened, what people think might have triggered the berserky behavior and etc. I headed over to the newstand – the local evening paper has red, bolded headlines screaming for attention – Fatal Stabbing Incident in NTU leaves one dead (translated from Chinese). I was immediately reminded how efficient the propagation of information had become nowadays – Chong told me over our dinner that his dad called him at around 12pm – that’s less than two hours after the incident, and his dad is not in Singapore but in Malaysia. He advised his son to be careful and not to get involved in the incident whatsoever – I can imagine the confusion and fear a parent will have. I expect tomorrow’s newspaper headlines will be all about this stabbing incident. I wonder what the reporters will write about it.

As I took the shuttle bus back to my dorm in the evening, the bus was again filled with news, speculations and probably untrue accounts of the stabbing incident. As I walked back to my room, I still can’t come to terms with the fact that someone actually died in my university, from a suicide, after nearly fatally stabbing a professor.

Bregitt’s mom even called her that she shouldn’t visit the accident site because David’s ghost will linger around the area until he gets seven people to replace him, as according to Chinese beliefs. I’m not sure how true is this, but well, it’s logical to avoid the place. I don’t want to be reminded that the spot is where David, an Indonesian Chinese, decided that his life is worthless. Perhaps he was haunted by the fact that he will be prosecuted, or is it a planned act executed the way he wanted? Nobody knows for sure.

Later in the night I rang home, and to my surprise (and relief) that my parents have not heard of the incident. Had my mom knew about it, she would have freaked out and start spam-calling my phone. She asked what I think about the incident and I told her that I wasn’t very much bothered by it, but it’s a shame that one squandered his life over a possible disagreement or row with his supervisor. Or did he succumd to stress? I’m not making any conclusions here, until the whole situation gets clearer.

Although not as serious as the mass killing of innocent students on university campus, such as the Virginia Tech massacre, the incident still send chills down my spine. It’s an isolated incident, I hope that I can get over it as soon as possible.

Just like how Eli puts it, suicide is “nothing more than the most selfish form of complaining ever invented by the juvenile mind.”

What people are saying

Some people blamed on the high level of stress an undergraduate student experiences – I have to agree with that. University isn’t as dreamy as I heard from anecdotal accounts and expected. It’s still a busy life – you’ve got loads of tutorials to do, projects to rush, lectures to catch up and if you’re intending to live on campus, get enough points to stay in the hall of residence. I do feel very stressed out certain times but never did I think of stabbing a professor in the back and then leaping to my own death. I’m speaking from the perspective of a first-year undergraduate though – I’ve heard that the commitments, responsibilites and requirements get exponentially greater and harder to deal with as we move on to the next academic year.

A blogger at WayangParty.com gave a detailed account of the incident, and even included a forum posting from my university’s Chinese society forum. David was wearing a dark tee and beige shorts. When he plumetted to his death, the gardeners and passerbys inspected him for a pulse. He was pronounce dead on the scene by paramedics who arrived later.

At the time of posting, Prof Chan had undergone an emergency surgery and is currently medically stable. Get well soon, prof. My deepest condolences to David’s family, Prof Chan and his family and whoever who are deeply affected by the incident.

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