CNB responds to woman's claim that arrest and questioning led to 17-year-old son's suicide

CNB responds to woman's claim that arrest and questioning led to 17-year-old son's suicide
PHOTO: The Straits Times file

The Central Narcotics Bureau (CNB) has responded to a woman's viral Instagram post alleging that the arrest and questioning of her son, who had a history of mental illness, led to the 17-year-old killing himself.

In a Facebook post on Wednesday (Oct 13) evening, CNB said they arrested a person suspected of trafficking a Class A controlled drug online on Feb 3.

Based on investigations, drugs were recovered by CNB from another location near Serangoon North Ave 4. They said: "The evidence indicated that the drugs belonged to Justin and that they were meant for sale."

"CNB has been investigating the circumstances of his arrest. The investigations are expected to be completed before end October 2021," they wrote in the post.

"Upon the conclusion of the investigations, the Ministry of Home Affairs (MHA) intends for the findings to be made available publicly," CNB added, saying that police are investigating the teen's death which happened in September.


On Tuesday, Cecilia Ow posted on Instagram a detailed letter — which has garnered over 15,000 likes and 160 comments — sent to Home Affairs Minister K Shanmugam on Oct 1, recounting the incidents leading up to her son's suicide.

She wrote in the post's caption: “It is a letter I wrote to Minister K Shanmugam on Oct 1, who responded with a phone call to assure me that his office would investigate the matter. But till today, nothing.”

According to CNB, Shanmugam contacted Ow on the same day he received the letter, assuring her that a thorough review into her child's arrest and that investigations will be conducted.

CNB added that she was also provided with the contact details for Shanmugam and Minister of State for Ministry of Home Affairs Faishal Ibrahim. "She was told that she could contact the ministers directly, at any time, on this matter," CNB said.

History of mental illness

Almost a month ago, on Sept 16, Ow's son jumped from the 12th storey in their Hougang block. 

“No parent should have to bury their child, and Justin’s death could have been avoided,” she wrote in the post.

Ow, who said she is an educator, also revealed Justin's history of mental illness.

A school counsellor referred him to the Institute of Mental Health (IMH) in 2019. The following year, he was diagnosed with dysthymia (persistent depressive disorder) and attended regular psychotherapy sessions.

After the encounter with CNB, Ow claimed that her son “slept poorly for months”, stopped talking to family members and could not focus on his studies. She also said that her son's psychologist told her he was suffering from post-traumatic stress disorder.

From February up to his death, Justin saw his IMH psychologist regularly for support, she said.

“The mental, psychological and emotional trauma inflicted on him was brutal, unnecessary and insensitive," she stated in the letter.

She added: “I don’t deny that Justin committed an offence. And I know that the CNB officers were doing their jobs.”

CNB said they arranged for psychological support for the mother during this difficult period. 

They added that once investigations are completed, the findings will be shared with the deceased's mother.


  • Samaritans of Singapore: 1800-221-4444
  • Singapore Association for Mental Health: 1800-283-7019
  • Care Corner Counselling Centre (Mandarin): 1800-353-5800
  • Institute of Mental Health's Mental Health Helpline: 6389-2222
  • Silver Ribbon: 6386-1928
  • Shan You Counselling Centre (Mandarin): 6741-0078
  • Fei Yue’s Online Counselling Service:
  • Tinkle Friend (for primary school children): 1800-2744-788

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