SINGAPORE: After falling into bad company, 14-year-old Carmen started to smoke, steal and run away from home often. To keep her out of trouble, her guardian, Mr Chan Tuck Foon, refused to allow her to meet friends he deemed a bad influence.
Desperate to meet her friends, Carmen took matters into her own hands. She tied a pillow and a large Elmo soft toy around her body using raffia string before jumping out of the seventh-floor kitchen window on Feb 25, 2017.
She was found at the foot of Block 519 West Coast Road. A paramedic at the scene detected a pulse and tried to revive her, but Carmen stopped breathing on the way to hospital. She was pronounced dead at 9.50pm.
The teenager had died from multiple injuries consistent with a fall from height, according to a forensic pathologist’s report.
State Coroner Marvin Bay said there was no evidence of foul play and “a complete absence of evidence of suicidal intent despite the very nature of Carmen’s act”.
The friend Carmen had planned to meet that night said she had told her she intended to “jump down” while “covered in pillows”. The friend arrived at their meeting point to realise someone had indeed jumped, and ran to the scene to see Carmen on a stretcher.
It was a “rash” plan that went “catastrophically wrong”, Mr Bay said, ruling the death – “a tragic misadventure” – an accident.
"AN EARNEST DESIRE TO DISOBEY"
Mr Bay said the teenager’s plan to sneak out to meet her friends by jumping out of the window was fuelled by an “earnest desire to disobey” Mr Chan’s instructions.
“Carmen’s fall was deliberate, but it is plain she did not intend the dire consequences,” the coroner said. He added investigators had “trawled through and closely scrutinised Carmen’s messages and school and counselling reports,” but had not found any evidence that she intended to commit suicide.
She had acted on “an improbably naive and delusional belief” that she could cushion her fall with the pillow and soft toy. “Carmen had exhibited an impulsive, oppositional and immature streak,” Mr Bay said.
He was referring to Mr Chan’s testimony that Carmen had started to act up since falling into bad company in 2016. She played truant, was caught stealing and smoking in school and ran away from home often. At the time of her death, she was under investigation for shop theft.
At a loss as to how to steer her away from bad influences, Mr Chan had approached Carmen’s school and Rotaract Family Service Centre for help. Because she would run away from home for days at a time, Mr Chan resorted to locking her in their flat at night, and sending her to school in the morning. However, the teenager still managed to slip away on several occasions.
Even after counselling, Carmen continued to behave badly and Mr Chan worried that her student pass would be terminated and she would have to be sent back to Batam in Indonesia, where her mother lives.
Carmen had lived in Singapore with Mr Chan since the age of six. Her mother is a friend of Mr Chan.
Mr Chan was seen in tears after the inquiry.