Death of NUS graduate, 23, who fell from 15th floor ruled misadventure

The man's mother did not believe her son had committed suicide.

Hannah Martens | January 12, 2024, 07:55 PM



Warning: This story contains descriptions of suicide. Reader discretion is advised.

The death of a 23-year-old man, Zhao Mingjian, was ruled a "misadventure" by a coroner's court after he was found dead at the foot of his condominium in August 2022.

Zhao, a Chinese national, was a recent National University of Singapore (NUS) graduate and had just started working at a new job before he fell from the 15th floor, CNA reported.

Zhao's mother, only known as Madam Zhang, raised several concerns during the inquiry and did not believe that Zhao died by suicide.

The coroner could not conclusively establish that Zhao had jumped from the balcony with the intention to end his life.

He was also unable to dismiss the possibility that Zhao had fallen from the balcony by accident.

In addition, the coroner found no evidence to support the contention that there were third parties involved in Zhao's fall, neither was there evidence to suggest foul play.

The incident

CNA reported that Zhao had just started work as an engineer after graduating from NUS in 2022. He lived with his sister and parents at the condominium.

On Aug. 17, 2022, at 3:45pm, Zhao fell from the condominium balcony and landed on the ground on a grass verge.

He suffered severe traumatic injuries and was brought to the hospital, but he could not be resuscitated.

On the day of the incident, Zhao was seen by Zhang and his sister at home.

The closed-circuit television cameras in the condominium recorded Zhao entering a lift on the 15th floor in gym attire at 11:30 am before he exited the condominium at 1pm.

His return to the condominium was not captured on CCTV footage because of a malfunctioning camera, said CNA.

At 3:45pm, a neighbour who lived in a block of flats opposite the condominium heard a scream followed by a thud.

The neighbour called the police and confirmed that he had not seen or heard any physical altercation or argument before that.

CNA also reported that the police officer responding to the case noticed that the door to Zhao's unit was wide open, but the gate was locked.

When the police officer entered the unit with Zhao's sister, he discovered that the door to the balcony was open.

There were no signs of struggle on the balcony or in the unit. A pair of slippers were found, one near the balcony and the other in a "slanted position" on a flowerpot.

No suicide note was found; however, Zhao's phone revealed a search on Aug. 4, 2022, for "world top suicide sites" and other similar searches, said CNA.

The mother's claims

Zhang raised several concerns during the inquiry and did not believe that her son died by suicide.

The first was her observation that Zhao's friends behaved in an "abnormal" manner at Zhao's funeral. One of them requested to give a eulogy, which Zhang found "suspicious" as eulogies are to be given by close family members.

She also claimed that another of Zhao's friends exhibited abnormal behaviour as he kept squeezing his mask and did not answer her when she tried to talk to him.

Zhang also came to find out that two "strange" men were allegedly seen at the condominium's lift lobby on the day Zhao fell. A neighbour told a security guard that he saw two strangers exiting a lift at the level Zhao stayed on.

Lastly, Zhang felt that her son could not have committed suicide as he did not arrange his slippers neatly before falling, he had not worn his spectacles, and he had not put on a new pair of shorts.

Coroner's findings

The coroner found Zhang's opinions on why her son could not have taken his life to be "speculative".

The coroner also called the information on the two strangers "idle gossip" and it did not happen that day, reported CNA.

The comments made by Zhao's friends also had no bearing on the circumstances surrounding his fall.

However, while suicide-related searches were found on his phone, the coroner said they were not conclusive evidence that Zhao intended to take his life.

He could have been "interested in the topic", said the coroner.

The coroner also added there was no indication that an interaction during a Clarke Quay outing with friends on Aug. 12, 2022 had affected him to the extent that taking his own life was the only solution.

The interaction was between Zhao and a girl whom he allegedly had romantic feelings for. During the outing, the girl apparently pointed the middle finger at him, which he thought was "impolite", CNA reported.

Ruled a misadventure

The coroner stated it was not possible to conclusively establish Zhao had jumped from the balcony, intending to end his life.

However, the coroner could not dismiss the possibility that Zhao could have fallen from the balcony accidentally.

There was also no evidence to suggest foul play, involving external parties.

The coroner conveyed his condolences to Zhao's family for their loss.


If you or someone you know are in mental distress, here are some hotlines you can call to seek help, advice, or just a listening ear:

SOS 24-hour Hotline: 1-767

Singapore Association for Mental Health: 1800-283-7019

Institute of Mental Health: 6389-2222 (24 hours)

Tinkle Friend: 1800-274-4788 (for primary school-aged children)

SHECARES@SCWO: Call: 8001 01 4616 | WhatsApp: 6571 4400 (for targets of online harms)

Top photo via Mothership