NSF suicide: 'She was not even slightly curious'

Private (Pte) Ganesh Pillay Magindren's supervising officer was "completely out of her depth" in dealing with his mental condition, the coroner said yesterday.

That was because Captain (Capt) Jessie Goh (right), then a lieutenant, did not try to find out how to manage the full-time national serviceman (NSF), who suffered from schizophrenia.

Pte Ganesh, 23, was found dead at the foot of his Sengkang condominium last July.

State Coroner Imran Abdul Hamid said he had died from multiple injuries sustained from a deliberate fall from height, and that he had known it would lead to his death.

The day before his death, Capt Goh had given him 14 charges of extra duties for not signing a logbook, reporting late for work and unsatisfactory work performance.

Mr Imran said: "(The punishment) is a daunting prospect even for soldiers without any mental issues.

"I agree with a previous witness who said Ganesh probably found it difficult to stomach the fact that he was given 14 days of extra duties after being at the receiving end of so many."


A stone-faced Capt Goh sat in the public gallery as the findings were read out in the State Courts.

She was the manpower officer at 24th Battalion Singapore Artillery and was directly in charge of Pte Ganesh when he was posted to the unit in November two years ago.

Pte Ganesh was assigned to clerical work as an administrative support assistant.

When he was posted there, she interviewed him and found out that he was depressed and had been seeing a private doctor.

When she asked what kind of doctor he was seeing, he did not tell her and she did not probe further.

In fact, Pte Ganesh was seeing a psychiatrist regularly for schizophrenia.

She knew only that he had been given the Physical Employment Status (PES) E9L9, the second-lowest medical classification given to servicemen.

Her computer system did not state why he had been given that PES status and she did not try to find out.

She testified earlier that she had treated him just like any other soldier.

She found out about his schizophrenia only after his private psychiatrist, Dr Paul Ngui, informed her in a letter last April, five months after he was posted to the unit at Khatib Camp.

The letter said Pte Ganesh had "a vulnerable personality and should not be exposed to severe stress conditions".

But Capt Goh did not know what schizophrenia meant and testified that the letter was "too generic and did not specify what should be done to manage Ganesh".

Said Mr Imran: "She was not even slightly curious about how well she could have managed the deceased. A simple phone call to his psychiatrist or the unit's medical officer would have cleared up matters."

The law limits the purpose of the inquiry to establishing the facts of the case and not to find fault, but Mr Imran expressed his disappointment with Capt Goh's ignorance.

He noted that she was out of her depth and "severely lacked the curiosity in the only PES E soldier she was in charge of ".

Capt Goh was supervising five other clerks at the time, but none of them had the PES E classification.

She told the inquiry earlier that while she was strict, she said she had given Pte Ganesh plenty of leeway and only the lightest punishment of extra duties.

She described their relationship as "friends", and would compliment his posts on Facebook and teach him how to iron and clean his clothes.


Mr Imran was also critical of the way information about Pte Ganesh's schizophrenia was handled.

He said: "This was a classic case of non-compliance."

According to an army directive, camps are supposed to keep a medical register of servicemen with psychiatric illnesses. But Khatib Camp did not, the coroner said.

Unit commanders who are in charge of servicemen with psychiatric problems would need to be informed by a letter from the Personnel Management Centre.

But Pte Ganesh's unit did not receive any such letter about his condition until a day before his death.

An earlier letter from Dr Ngui was given to the Medical Classification Centre at the Central Manpower Base in January last year.

A copy of the letter obtained by The New Paper contained details about his schizophrenia but it was not handed over to his unit.

Said Mr Imran: "This reveals the ignorance the unit had regarding the deceased's schizophrenia... Capt Goh was disadvantaged from the start by not being informed of his condition."


On the day of his death, Private (Pte) Ganesh Pillay Magindren had complained of headaches.

He was taken to his supervising officer, then-Lieutenant (Lt) Jessie Goh, who took him to the medical officer. He was given a day's medical certificate and told to go home.

Before he left, Lt Goh issued him an A4-sized notebook and told him to write five pages of things he had to do, such as bringing detergent and shaving regularly, otherwise he would face disciplinary action.

The day before, she had given him 14 days of extra duties as punishment for not signing a logbook, reporting late for work and unsatisfactory work performance.

She testified earlier that she thought he was "a sloppy person" as he did not know how to take care of himself.

She thought it was because he was still "adapting to military life" and used the extra duties to teach him how to look after himself.

Pte Ganesh arrived home at around 2pm, according to closedcircuit television footage at his Sengkang condominium.

He sent a text message to Lt Goh that read: "What do you want me to do?"

She replied: "Is this how you talk to a superior?"

After he apologised and told her he was home, she told him to "stick to your yellow book of instructions".

He replied: "Can."

These were the only messages found in Pte Ganesh's mobile phone by police investigators.

His younger brother was at home when he returned. At 4.30pm, he saw Pte Ganesh sitting on the edge of his bed, shoulders slumped, deep in thought.

His brother left the unit at 4.45pm.

Pte Ganesh's body was found at the foot of the condominium by a delivery man half an hour later.

This article was published on April 9 in The New Paper.

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Samaritans of Singapore (SOS):1800-2214444
Singapore Association for Mental Health:1800-2837019
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