SINGAPORE: A 35-year-old Singaporean man, whose identity remains undisclosed due to gag orders protecting surviving victims, was sentenced to 21-and-a-half years in prison and 18 strokes of the cane on Tuesday (19 Sep).
The man pleaded guilty of culpable homicide not amounting to murder in the death of his toddler daughter, who suffered severe abuse leading to her tragic demise.
He also pleaded guilty to three charges including rioting, ill-treating his stepson and consuming a specified drug.
Another five charges will be considered in sentencing.
The 35-year-old Singaporean cannot be named due to gag orders to protect the surviving victims.
The gag orders imposed by the court also cover the identity of the wife and where the killing occurred.
However, the judge stressed that the victim’s first name, Umaisyah, should be published so that she can be remembered by her name instead of as “the deceased” or “the victim.”
The court heard that the man and his then-wife had four children of their own, including the two-and-a-half-year-old victim who was born in 2011.
The woman had a daughter and a son from a previous marriage.
Toddler suffered abused
Umaisyah, who was born in 2011, was placed in foster care when she was just three to four months old, due to her father’s detention in a drug rehabilitation center and her mother’s inability to care for her.
In June 2013, she was returned to her parents, but the transition was marked by her distress as she cried often due to the unfamiliarity of her parents.
Tragically, Umaisyah was subjected to ongoing abuse by her parents, who also had four other children.
Her father used items like belts and hangers to physically harm her, while her mother resorted to slapping and flicking her.
The abuse extended to their other children as well, leaving them alone without sufficient food and water.
In March 2014, the accused and his wife were upset at the girl as she was playing with her faeces after soiling her diaper.
When the girl cried “despite being asked not to,” her mother slapped her cheeks and “flicked her lips,” the prosecution said.
Her father, under the influence of methamphetamine, forcefully slapped her multiple times.
As a result, the girl’s legs went weak.
She sat on the floor and her body started leaning to the right while her upper body bent forward.
She stopped crying and started gasping for air.
Her mother saw blood and liquid coming out of her mouth and nose.
Umaisyah had suffered a traumatic brain injury which led to a concussive brain seizure.
Neither parent sought medical help for Umaisyah, fearing arrest due to her injuries and the father’s drug use.
Medical intervention might have saved the child’s life, as later highlighted by the prosecution.
Divorced couple’s elaborate cover-up in toddler’s tragic death unveiled
The divorced couple took extensive measures to conceal their actions, which included destroying evidence and deceiving both authorities and their own family members regarding the whereabouts of the victim.
On the day of Umaisyah’s demise, her parents placed her lifeless body inside a metal pot, which they then set on fire in the rear of the accused man’s truck.
They ensured that her remains were completely incinerated before transferring the pot into a cardboard box, securely sealing it with masking tape, and wrapping it in cling film.
The box was discreetly stored beneath the kitchen stove in their apartment.
Umaisyah’s uncle, identified as Z, was cautioned against tampering with the box and was told it contained items from the accused’s vehicle.
In 2017, when the Ministry of Education inquired about Umaisyah’s absence from Primary 1 registration, her mother falsely claimed that her estranged husband had taken the child away, while the accused fabricated a story about relatives caring for the girl in Malaysia.
During that same year, the accused and his wife grew apart, and he ceased living with her.
He underwent another period of rehabilitation for drug use before fleeing and engaging in riotous behavior while on the run.
Meanwhile, Z, Umaisyah’s uncle, became increasingly inquisitive about the box’s contents and attempted to dispose of it in 2017 due to its unsanitary condition and the presence of cockroach eggs within the cling film.
When Umaisyah’s mother discovered this, she promptly had the box rewrapped and cautioned her brother against further interference.
Following her mother’s imprisonment in 2019, Z opened the box and discovered a decomposed, damp lump.
Later, when some of his sister’s friends visited the apartment after attending her sentencing for other offenses, Z displayed the pot’s contents to them.
This left the friends feeling uneasy, prompting them to report the matter to the police.
The child’s remains were described by the prosecution as being so severely charred that recognition was nearly impossible.
An autopsy revealed only small bones and a loose tooth amidst the soot and debris, with all facial features and the identity of the hands and feet unidentifiable.
Judge questions delay in case as prosecution seeks lengthy sentence
During the legal proceedings, Judge Aedit Abdullah questioned why it took five years since the accused was arrested in 2018 for the case to progress.
Deputy Public Prosecutor Wong Woon Kwong explained that extensive investigations were needed due to the severe condition of the victim’s body, which had been badly damaged, making it hard to determine the exact causes of death and reconstruct the events.
Although the case had been scheduled for a guilty plea twice before, it didn’t proceed as planned on those occasions.
The prosecution asked for a jail term of 20-and-a-half to 21-and-a-half years, along with 18 strokes of the cane.
They argued that the accused tried to blame his wife, even though both had agreed to dispose of their daughter’s body.
The accused is represented by three legal teams: Mr. Si Hoe Tat Chorng from Acacia Legal, Ms. Harjeet Kaur Dhaliwal from Withers KhattarWong, and Mr. Ramesh Tiwary.
Mr. Tiwary clarified that his client was not avoiding responsibility and had accepted his role.
He emphasized that the killing was not premeditated but happened suddenly, with his client’s actions that day limited to slapping his daughter two or three times, which resulted in her injury.
Judge lifts gag order
In his sentencing remarks, Judge Abdullah admonished the offender, clarifying that the gag order was meant to protect his surviving children, not him.
He removed the gag order and stressed the importance of using Umaisyah’s name instead of impersonal terms like “deceased” or “victim.”
“I therefore lift the gag order and specify that her name can be published. This is important,” he said.
The judge said Umaisyah died when she was very young and was “robbed of any opportunity of growing up”, developing her own identity and leading a fulfilling life.
He emphasized the importance of remembering her by her name, fearing she might be reduced to just the child who suffered.
Judge Abdullah didn’t find much in favor of the offender, even though the man mentioned finding solace in religion.
“It’s between you and your maker. It is irrelevant to sentencing. I’m here to impose punishment on behalf of the state,” the judge said.
The judge considered the offender’s actions among the most heinous cases of culpable homicide.
Despite the usual reduction for a guilty plea, he agreed with the prosecution’s request for the maximum penalty.
He highlighted the brutality of the act, where the man’s actions caused severe harm to a two-and-a-half-year-old child, ultimately leading to her death.
Judge Abdullah concluded by describing the offender as a violent person willing to harm others and stressed the need for punishment.
After the sentencing, he allowed six family members to speak to the offender.
The case of the victim’s mother is still ongoing in court.
Initially charged with murder alongside the offender, the prosecution later dropped the murder charge against her.
The case of Umaisyah’s mother is still pending before the courts, as the prosecution withdrew the murder charge against her.
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