The Curious Case of David Widjaja

This case of David Widjaja Hartanto is driving me crazy. This whole week I have been in constant barrage of information and request for comments from friends and even family about this case. Wow.

This loss of life must be shocking and we, people who share common bond with David albeit weak and small, share our deepest condolences for David's family.

Today I received an email containing a letter which supposedly was written by Klemens A., David's friend. Seems that this letter (in Indonesian) has fallen into many hands so I won't post it here. I will translate portions of this letter that fascinate me most, and have my say.

My subjective opinion and recent development are also added.

Note: I am an NUS student with Indonesia nationality. So bias is inevitable. Also note the disclaimer at the bottom of this post.

About the slit in the wrist

From the letter:

1. Released by Media that David had attacked Professor Chan Kap Luk, then have intention to suicide by slicing his wrist , from where that the news come from. What they purpose to publish false news mentioned that David had slashed his own wrist?

It can simply be the fault of the media. An easy formula to fame is to make sensational gossips.

It is also possible that NTU or the police specifically asked the media to write that as a preliminary speculation. Everybody involved was in the state of panic then.

More from the letter:

2. When David’s family arrived in Singapore on Monday 2th March 2009 at night after the incident, Family wanted directly to recognize David’s cadaver however there are certain parties not allowed them. They said that it’s already the rule, so family tried to be cooperative even at the utter shocked moment. When Family had been allowed to recognize David’s cadaver after waiting for one day, nevertheless Family only can see David’s cadaver from neck until head, while others part had covered with plastic even they had asked to open the plastic and wanted to see his entire cadaver. Family had confirmed to Singapore police there is no wound on his wrist and at that time family also found there were many plaster on his front neck (neck under chin).

I guess there is a protocol saying that in the case of suspected murder case, all evidences must be thoroughly gathered before publishing them. The corpse might be considered as evidence and so must undergo autopsy before showing it to family. This rule may be fake and non-existent.

I cannot find the law regarding autopsy for Singapore, but from what I know, before autopsy the police needs to (1) let family and close friends identify that the corpse is really David, and (2) obtain written permission from the family. News say that an autopsy had been performed before the corpse was cremated but there is no evidence for that.


6. David’s family had been prevented to meet with Professor Chan Kap Luk with reason that at that time he was still in ICU. However Professor’s condition had been stable since Tuesday and allowed to return home on Wednesday, mentioned by Singapore media. However until today I never heard his statement towards this tragedy.

Patients can be in the ICU for only one day. ICUs are expensive because it needs 24/7 attention so once a person does not need "intensive" care he/she will be released to regular ward. But it is still weird because the prof must be very weak and must stay in the hospital. Maybe someone mistook ICU from emergency unit/department?

The tools of trade

11. The tools that had been found to stab the Professor is fruit knife without handle. Where is the handle? Is it possible to stab someone using knife without handle? Who stab who still been unknown, and the handle should be found. However there isn’t formal specify explanation about this case.

If this incident was premeditated, one of the party may have considered that fingerprints would be a disadvantage. Therefore he might have thought of a way to dispose of the handle of the knife.

Was David stressed and snapped out?

I personally do not believe that it is the motive.

I went through the olympiad thing up till national level. Although I cannot say the pressure of an international olympiad, I can say that olympians (huh?) all have a good sense of stress management. They have faced a lot more hurdles in life than ordinary students. There are obviously times where the world seems to be coming to an end... but no, we don't snap out.

But then we are not total genius either. His field is mathematics right? How similar is mathematics to electrical engineering? Quite close but maybe not close enough for David. That's probably why he cannot reach 3.5 CAP.

Also the CAP computation is cumulative during 4 years of study. Therefore achieving very well or very bad in the FYP won't adjust CAP that much.

Justlimz in his blog also mentioned things that convinced me that "snapping out" is very unlikely for this person.

Did someone plan to murder David?

Recent news about a suicide by a project officer in NTU is completely revealing. And guess what, the project officer worked in the same lab David and Prof. Chan was working!

This is truly a tremendous development of the case. Prof. Chan, Mr. Zhou, and David was working in the same lab for about a semester! It seems that Mr. Zhou just started working on the day of incident (Monday). Why did Mr. Zhou commit suicide?

Mr. Zhou might know that the professor, the university, the government (whoa?) or some other third party had planned a murder for David. I didn't know who would want to murder a scholar from Indonesia studying in Singapore with olympiad background (scarily, I and some of my friends fall under this category). But if Mr. Zhou knew and cannot prevent the plan to happen, he might be in extreme sense of guilt deserving suicide (that's what he thought).

It might also be the case that Mr. Zhou only knew it later that someone had planned the murder and he was threatened that he will be murdered if he told the police. This also may give extreme sense of guilt deserving suicide.

Also, Mr. Zhou might felt that David's death was due to him (because he know something we don't know). So he wanted to repay by suicide.

It is also possible that Mr. Zhou is employed to replace David. If the professor really wanted to take over David's project he need one more person for the research. Maybe Mr. Zhou discovered this and decided not to stain his life any further in this dark conspiracy?


People like to play detective.

Haha... kidding :) Considering all the information I know this is what I believe happened. Remember this is purely speculative and may not be true at all.

  1. Prof or David called for a meeting at Prof's office.
  2. Prof made statement that provoke David to attack. OR David made statement that provoke David to attack. OR there was a third party.
  3. Prof or David incidentally had a knife and used it to defend himself.
  4. They somehow struggled and wounded each other.
  5. David realised that if he was found out, he would be in severe disadvantage (maybe because the Prof is in higher position or he wounded Prof first). So he ran away holding the knife.
  6. Just outside the office he realised that the knife had fingerprints so he somehow removed the handle (how???). OR the Prof got hold of the knife and removed the handle. OR there was no knife in the first place, it is just lying around there. OR a third person removed the handle.
  7. David continued to run away in a state of intense panic and blood loss. He fell down because of panic and dizziness.
  8. See the section about Mr Zhou's suicide.




There are some fascinating.

There are some fascinating points in time on this article but I don't know if I see all of them heart to heart. There's some validity however I'll take hold opinion until I look into it further. Good article , thanks and we would like extra! Added to FeedBurner as nicely


rest in peace my friend...

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