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Hariz Baharudin, Ng Jun Sen
The New Paper
Saturday, June 4, 2016
As she lifted the sanitary pad bin in the women's toilet at Tampines MRT station, Madam Jumiati Amat noticed it was heavier than usual.
The 75-year-old cleaner, who was about to empty the bin of its contents at around 1.30pm yesterday, decided to open its lid to look inside.
What she saw gave her the shock of her life.
Lying motionless among the discarded pads and soiled tissues was a baby boy.
The boy, who was facing up, had been placed in a red plastic bag that was left open.
Still reeling from her macabre discovery, Madam Jumiati later told The New Paper: "The poor thing. His eyes and mouth were closed when I found him.
"When I saw him, I knew immediately that he was dead."
Madam Jumiati said she composed herself before lifting the baby from the bin and placing him on her cleaning trolley.
She then alerted two SMRT staff, who called the police.
"Of course, I was shocked, I never thought I would find a dead baby in the toilet. But I knew that I needed to get help," she said.
Madam Jumiati had earlier emptied the bin at around 7am. She was doing another clean-up in the afternoon when she found the body.
At the time, the toilet was empty and there was no sign that anything was amiss, she said, adding: "There was no blood, or any kind of bodily fluids or an umbilical cord."
"I don't think the baby was born in the toilet. He looked clean in the plastic bag, I think someone could have just dumped him here," she said.
Madam Jumiati said the boy was "not fair-skinned".
She also used her hands to indicate the length of the baby to be about 25cm, about half the length of an average full-term newborn.
At about 1.40pm, police officers arrived at the scene and cordoned off the area around the toilet.
Paramedics, who arrived shortly after, pronounced the baby dead.
When TNP went to the MRT station at about 2pm, a crowd of about 100 people had gathered near the entrance.
The crowd swelled to more than 300 by about 4pm. More than 20 police officers were at the scene.
Filled with people
Madam Mariam, the 71-year-old owner of a snack shop near the toilet, said she was disturbed that such an incident could have happened in the station, which is always filled with people.
"I couldn't believe it when people told me a dead body had been found, what more a dead baby," she said.
"It makes me sad to know such a thing could have happened."
At about 4.10pm, a body bag was carried out from the women's toilet and placed on a stretcher before it was taken away.
When asked how she was coping after her experience, Madam Jumiati said she was "shocked, but not scared".
The grandmother of three said: "It made me sad, but I knew I had to tell the SMRT officers so that something could be done."
The police said investigations are ongoing.
DISPOSING OF CORPSE IS A CRIME
What happens if a baby is stillborn and the mother decides to dispose of the corpse in such a way as to conceal its birth?
Such a case happened last year, when an Indonesian maid hid her stillborn foetus in her bedroom drawer.
The maid, 33, was found out after hospital tests revealed that she had given birth recently. She confessed to her employers that she had given birth to a baby boy who was stillborn.
She was arrested for concealment of birth by secret disposal of a dead body, said a police spokesman.
It is against the law to secretly bury or dispose of the dead body of a child and conceal the birth.
Offenders can be jailed up to two years and fined.
Penalties for deliberately ending the life of a newborn child are even heavier - up to 10 years in jail and a fine.
Babes Pregnancy Crisis Support case worker Noor Haslinda, 40, told The New Paper that she had received two calls where the callers claimed their baby was stillborn and that they needed help.
Both calls turned out to be pranks, but Ms Haslinda said the same procedure applies as in real calls.
"We will call for an ambulance once we find out the locations. Together with another colleague, we will also go there to provide support," she said.
"The authorities have to be informed. There is no way one can run away from that responsibility as the baby's body has to be accounted for."
MOST CASES INVOLVE TEENS, MAIDS
While there are no statistics on cases involving the dumping of dead newborn babies, there were 21 abandoned babies identified here from 2006 to 2015.
A Ministry of Social and Family Development (MSF) spokesman, who provided the figures, told The New Paper: "Abandonment of a child under the age of 12 years old is a chargeable offence."
While the numbers are considered low, most of the reported cases involve teenage parents and foreign domestic workers.
Said Aware's programmes and communications senior manager Jolene Tan: "There are very strong pressures placed on both parties. Not just to hide their pregnancy, but also to not seek help and reach out to those around them."
She explained how expectant teenagers could be driven to conceal their pregnancies from their parents.
"It is this fear of family disapproval, and, in some cases, the fear of family violence, that could cause them to keep silent," she said.
Likewise, maids may fear having their work permits cancelled.
One condition for a maid working in Singapore is to not get pregnant or give birth here, unless she is married to a Singaporean or permanent resident with the approval of the Manpower Ministry.
Said Ms Tan: "(Both teenage parents and maids) may feel that they are very much alone in their situations."
Ms Frances Lee, senior manager of Care Corner Family Service Centre (Toa Payoh), told TNP that many factors may drive some parents to commit such "an act of desperation".
"There could be the lack of support, emotional capacity and knowledge of the resources that are available to them, not to mention their confusion. A lot of these factors could lead to the panic that the parents may be experiencing.
"They feel like they might have no one to turn to," she said.
But she stressed that many options are available to distressed and expectant parents.
"Even if they don't intend to keep the child, there are many other ways they could go about it, such as adoption, although many also choose to abort," she said.
When an abandoned baby is found, the police and MSF's Child Protective Service (CPS) will be involved in investigating the case and looking after the welfare of the child respectively, said the MSF spokesman.
The child will be placed under the ministry's foster care, pending further investigations from the police and the CPS, he added.
In instances where the parents have been traced, CPS will assess their ability to provide appropriate care.
"Should the police be unable to trace the parents and family, or if the family is assessed to be unable to provide appropriate care for the child, CPS would source for prospective adopters for the child," he said.
A 33-year-old Indonesian maid was arrested after she was found to have hidden a 15cm-long foetus in her bedroom drawer at her employer's home in Lorong Ong Lye. The foetus, which the maid claimed had died at birth, was believed to be five months old.
A dead baby boy was found on a staircase landing between the second and third storeys of Block 334, Bukit Batok Street 32. He was found naked in a white plastic bag. There was no blood on the body and the umbilical cord had been cut.
A premature baby was found dead in a locker at the FairPrice supermarket in the basement of Bishan Junction 8 mall. The baby, placed inside a bag, was found in a semi-decomposed condition.
A newborn girl was found dead in a toilet at Commonwealth MRT station. She was in a grey plastic bag that had been left beside a rubbish bin in the women's toilet. The body was still bloody and wrapped in yellow cloth.
Pregnancy Crisis Service: 6339-9770
Babes Pregnancy Crisis Support: 1800-833-6666 or SMS to 8111-3535