SINGAPORE: An SAF regular serviceman found dead in Sembawang Camp in 2015 had died of a gunshot wound, a coroner’s inquiry heard on Thursday (Jan 19).
Twenty-year-old Pravinraj Selvaraj had placed his rifle in his mouth before pulling the trigger, an autopsy concluded, based on the trajectory of the bullet.
The inquiry heard Pravinraj, who enlisted in 2013 and signed on as a regular serviceman in 2015, had been diagnosed with depression and acute stress reaction by psychiatrists from the Institute of Mental Health (IMH) in August and September 2011.
He was first brought to IMH in July 2011 for attempted suicide after an argument with his mother. Pravinraj cited a strained relationship with his family – his divorced parents and two younger brothers – as the reason for his visits to IMH.
After his death, his mother admitted that Pravinraj had “yearned for family affection but neither received it from her nor (his father)”, whom he last saw about 10 months before his death.
Pravinraj’s friends told investigators he sometimes slept at void decks and staircase landings, due to family troubles.
In April 2013, Pravinraj told IMH psychiatrists he felt “stressed about not having a home” and admitted he sometimes entertained suicidal thoughts. He was told to return after a week for a review but missed his appointment.
During a routine interview in August 2013, Pravinraj’s supervisor said the teen had expressed interest in signing on as a regular serviceman and had asked if accommodation could be provided for him.
Although Pravinraj brought up his past mental health issues, the supervisor did not refer him to a medical officer because "(Pravinraj’s) IMH history was three years prior to the interview”, the coroner’s inquiry heard.
SUICIDE NOTE ON PHONE
On the morning of Nov 21, 2015, Pravinraj and his partner were issued rifles upon reporting for guard duty at Sembawang Camp. The pair were also given two magazines, one loaded and the other empty.
At 2.30pm, Pravinraj said he had to use the toilet. His partner waited outside for about 10 minutes before calling out to Pravinraj, who replied he needed more time.
Two minutes later, the partner heard “a loud explosion” and ran into the toilet, shouting for Pravinraj. There was no response. He saw bloodstains on the ceiling and immediately alerted his superiors.
The police and Singapore Civil Defence Force were called in, and they unlocked the cubicle door to find Pravinraj slumped on the floor with his rifle and a crumpled piece of paper between his legs.
The note said Pravinraj had left a message on an app on his mobile phone. Officers found on his phone a lengthy suicide note in which he left his belongings to his best friend, told his girlfriend he loved her and thanked his friends for being there for him.
Investigations revealed Pravinraj had sent a picture of five bullets to his girlfriend and four of his closest friends about twohours before he died, investigating officer Assistant Superintendent Arun Guruswamy said. A forensic examination of his mobile phone also found he had browsed suicide-related websites.
In ruling Pravinraj’s death a suicide, State Coroner Marvin Bay said “the evidence doesn’t suggest any bullying, mistreatment or work-related grievance during his time with SAF”. He also noted Pravinraj was alone in a cubicle locked from the inside at the time the shots were fired.