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The Straits Times
Sept 19, 2023
After taking drugs, a man fatally slapped his two-year-old daughter, then he and his wife burned the body in a metal pot to destroy the evidence.
They put the pot with the burnt remains in a cardboard box, sealed it with masking tape and cling wrap, before putting the box under the kitchen stove in their flat.
Over the years, they lied to their family and the authorities about the girl’s whereabouts.
More than five years later, in 2019, the woman’s younger brother, who had become increasingly curious about the contents of the box, opened it, despite her warning him not to touch it.
He showed his find to the woman’s friends, who called the police because they felt uneasy with what they saw.
On Tuesday, the girl’s father, now 35, was sentenced to a total of 21½ years’ jail and 18 strokes of the cane after pleading guilty to a charge of culpable homicide for causing her death in March 2014 by forcefully slapping her multiple times and failing to provide her with medical aid.
He also pleaded guilty to three other charges – for ill-treating his six-year-old stepson, rioting and consumption of methamphetamine.
Five other charges were taken into consideration.
High Court judge Aedit Abdullah described the man’s acts of slapping the defenceless toddler as callous, vicious and heinous.
Justice Abdullah also lifted a gag order on the girl’s given name – Umaisyah.
“It is important to my mind that we all remember her by her name,” he said, noting that Umaisyah was robbed of any opportunity of growing up, developing her own identity and leading a fulfilling life.
He added: “I fear Umaisyah will only be remembered as the child who was killed by her father; whose body was burnt by her parents; and whose charred remains were kept in a pot by them. Umaisyah deserved so much more.”
Details such as the names of the couple and the address of the flat, which could lead to the identification of their surviving children, cannot be published.
The man married the woman in June 2012. The woman, now 34, had a son and a daughter from a previous marriage.
The couple had four children of their own together, including Umaisyah.
When she was about three to four months old in November 2011, she was placed in foster care as the man was detained in a drug rehabilitation centre, while his wife was assessed to be unable to take care of the girl.
On June 1, 2013, Umaisyah was returned to the couple’s care and custody, but she often cried and was not comfortable with her parents, who were not familiar to her.
The couple abused Umaisyah up till her eventual death. The man would hit her with a belt and hanger, slap her face and leg, cane her palm, punch her thigh and pinch her thigh and body.
The man similarly abused another daughter as well as his stepson.
Between March 2013 and March 2014, the man ill-treated his stepson on numerous occasions by hitting him with a belt, a hanger and his bare hands, slapping his face and body, and punching his body and hand.
On the morning of March 2014, the couple were upset with Umaisyah as she was playing with her faeces after soiling her diaper.
When the girl cried, the woman slapped her on the cheek. The man, who had taken methamphetamine that morning, slapped the girl on the face two to three times.
The girl, whose mouth was bloodied, collapsed and started gasping for air. Prosecutors said the trauma to Umaisyah’s head as a result of the accused’s assaults caused significant traumatic brain injury, which led to a concussive seizure.
After Umaisyah’s lips turned blue, the woman tried unsuccessfully to resuscitate her. The couple did not call for help because they were worried that they would be arrested for the girl’s injuries.
To cover their tracks, they placed the girl’s body in a metal pot and set the body on fire at the back of the man’s lorry.
After placing the pot in a box and sealing it, they brought the box back to the flat. The woman cautioned her younger brother against touching the box under the stove.
In the days and years that followed, when asked by family members about Umaisyah’s whereabouts, the couple either lied that the girl had returned to her foster parents or that she was being cared for by the man’s aunt in Melaka.
In 2017, the woman’s younger brother tried to throw the box away as there were cockroach eggs in the cling wrap.
The woman told him to bring the box back before she rewrapped the box with new cling wrap, and cautioned him against touching it again.
In December 2017, an officer from the Education Ministry contacted the couple to check why Umaisyah had yet to register for Primary 1. By then, the couple were estranged and the man had moved out.
The woman lied that Umaisyah had been taken away by the man, while the man lied that his parents had been taking care of her for the prior three years but he was unaware of her whereabouts.
In August 2019, while the woman was in prison, her younger brother decided to open the cardboard box, which was wet. He saw a black lump inside the pot that looked decomposed. He threw away the box and placed the pot in another container.
He told her about this when he visited her in prison, but she told him to place the pot back under the stove.
On Sept 9, 2019, he showed the contents of the pot to his sister’s friends. The friends decided to report the matter to the police the next day.
Forensic pathologist Paul Chui had to carefully separate blocks of charcoal from the body and recover small bones and a loose tooth from the soot and debris before he could conduct the autopsy.
Dr Chui observed that the body was severely charred. All facial features were absent, and the hands and feet could not be identified.
Any external injury could not be seen owing to the significant fire damage and advanced state of decomposition, and hence he could not ascertain the time or cause of death.
On Sept 17, 2019, the couple were charged with murder. By then, they were in remand for unrelated offences.
The woman was serving five years and two months’ jail for drug-related charges and theft.
The man, who had jumped bail after he was charged in April 2018 for rioting, was arrested again on June 19, 2018. He was found to have consumed methamphetamine.
On Tuesday, Justice Abdullah noted that the man was arrested in 2018 and asked why the man’s case was only now being heard.
Deputy Public Prosecutor Wong Woon Kwong replied that because Umaisyah’s body was destroyed, significant investigations had to be conducted to verify the cause of death and reconstruct the events.
On March 2, 2021, the woman was granted a discharge not amounting to an acquittal for her murder charge. This means she can still be prosecuted for the offence later, depending on the evidence that emerges.
She faces 12 other charges, including ill-treating another four of her children. These charges are still pending in the State Courts.
March 2014: The man slaps Umaisyah so hard that she suffers from a concussive seizure and dies. He and his wife burns the body in a metal pot, places the remains in a sealed cardboard box and keeps it under the kitchen stove.
December 2017: An officer from the Education Ministry contacts the couple to check why Umaisyah has yet to register for Primary 1. The couple, who are estranged by then, each tells different lies about the girl’s whereabouts.
August 2019: The woman’s younger brother opens the cardboard box. He throws the wet box away and places the pot in another container.
Sept 10, 2019: After being shown the contents of the pot, the woman’s friends decide to report the matter to the police.
Sept 17, 2019: The couple, who are remanded in custody for unrelated offences, are charged with murder.