‘I don’t wish to stay alive’, Singapore migrant worker with Covid-19 said before dying from fall at hospital, Coroner’s inquiry hears

Alagu Periyakarrupan (left) with his wife A Panjali and their two younger daughters Ranjini, 11, and Rekha, six.l — A Panjali and ItsRainingRaincoats pic via TODAY
Alagu Periyakarrupan (left) with his wife A Panjali and their two younger daughters Ranjini, 11, and Rekha, six.l — A Panjali and ItsRainingRaincoats pic via TODAY

SINGAPORE, Sept 24 — Less than an hour before he fell from a seventh-floor window at Khoo Teck Puat Hospital, migrant worker Alagu Periyakarrupan recorded two videos on his mobile phone, expressing a wish to end his life.

Speaking in Tamil, he said in one of the videos, which was 27 seconds long: “Doctors are saying that I have coronavirus, therefore I do not wish to stay alive. I am ready to lose my life. Nobody or nothing has anything to do with this. I have recorded this with a sober mind.”

He could be heard repeating a similar message in the second video, 20 seconds long.

These details emerged as State Coroner Kamala Ponnampalam began an inquiry into his death today.

The two videos were recorded at 5.24am and 5.26am on April 23, four days after Alagu had been diagnosed with Covid-19.

At about 6.15am the same day, a staff nurse heard a thud from his cubicle.

Alagu, a 46-year-old construction worker, was later found motionless at a third-floor staircase landing. He died of multiple injuries consistent with those resulting from a fall from height.

Not a victim of crime

Testifying in court today, Inspector Jolene Ng Meiqi said the police concluded that Alagu was not a victim of crime and there were no signs of foul play surrounding his fall.

Inspector Ng from Woodlands Police Division, who was the investigation officer for the case, added that DNA samples and fingerprints from the scene established that he had tampered with the window panes in his ward, likely using a metal hook.

The marks found on plastic window holders at the scene were consistent with those made by the hook, she said.

It is not known how or from where Alagu got the hook.

Alagu’s nephew Veerappan Meenakshi Sundaram, who was present in court today, questioned witnesses about the hook.

When asked if there was a policy to take away sharp objects from patients upon admission, Dr Goh Kah Hong, the head of Khoo Teck Puat Hospital’s Department of Psychiatry, said that there are guidelines on what items can be brought into the hospital.

However, as Khoo Teck Puat is not a psychiatric hospital, staff members do not conduct thorough searches of patients’ belongings or restrict patients’ access to particular items, he added.

Dr Goh was also asked whether such a metal hook would have raised concerns during admission.

He said: “It doesn’t present itself as a weapon of any sort or anything dangerous. I don’t think it would have been flagged.”

No indication of suicidal thoughts

Dr Goh, who chairs a committee for serious reportable events that was formed following Alagu’s death, also testified that there was no indication that the patient was exhibiting suicidal thoughts or behaviour before his fall.

He said that the Alagu was noted to be pleasant and helpful as he would help with handing out trays of food to his fellow patients, although he was “a bit quiet”.

Even so, Dr Goh said the hospital recognises that the pandemic situation is overwhelming, especially for foreign workers.

In particular, Khoo Teck Puat Hospital noticed that patients who were migrant workers tend to feel confused and fearful after a Covid-19 diagnosis, he said.

“They would ask what is going on They would not know the reason why they are in the hospital despite being told, so they have to be told repeatedly.”

And so, the hospital ensures that patients always have their mobile phones with them, provides chargers to those who do not have one and ensures that they have enough credit to contact family members, among other measures, he said.

State Coroner Kamala will give her findings on Alagu’s death tomorrow. — TODAY

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