Straits Times apologizes for ‘unfortunate’ axe ad next to school killing story

Daily newspaper The Straits Times apologized today for publishing an advertisement featuring a hand holding an axe next to a front page story about a suspected student axe murderer.

A day after an axe was allegedly used to kill a 13-year-old River Valley High School student, a crime which shocked the nation, The Straits Times apologized after meeting a fierce backlash for publishing the tragic story just above the advertisement for “Axe Brand” mineral oil supplement. The ad included the company’s logo, an axe wielded by a raised arm.

“This juxtaposition was inadvertent and unfortunate, in the light of the tragic incident. The Straits Times apologises for the distress caused,” the newspaper wrote in its print and online editions. “The advertisement had been booked in advance of news developments.”

The ad has since been removed from its website.

Axe Brand yesterday acknowledged the inappropriate placement, noting that it was also unintentional on their end, and that the advertisement was arranged in December. 

“The advertisement placement was not intentional by our company but a very unfortunate coincidence. Our company is in deep sympathy and grief with the victim’s family,” the brand wrote.

Advertisements are routinely booked well in advance of publication, and the history of publishing is rich with similar examples of unfortunate ad placement. Layout professionals are usually trained to be on the lookout for such issues in order to avoid them.

This did not quell an eruption of fury from people who saw intent in the pairing. Hours after the ad and story were published online and in print, readers hurled insults at the paper’s staff, calling them everything from “insensitive pricks” and “tacky” to a “joke.”

A 16-year-old suspect was charged with murder yesterday and remanded for psychiatric assessment. He is scheduled to return to court next month. The nation has been mourning the unidentified victim’s death by placing bouquets of flowers, toys and letters outside the school on  Boon Lay Avenue.

Prime Minister Lee Hsien Loong said yesterday that he “cannot make sense of what happened.” The investigation is ongoing.

Bouquets of flowers and letters placed outside the school’s entrance. Photo: Natsham
Bouquets of flowers and letters placed outside the school’s entrance. Photo: Natsham

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