It was in 1995 that Tahir Hassan first got the urge to touch young children. He was stopped only after his arrest last year.
The paedophile first went to void decks and playgrounds to target children. Then, from 2005, he molested them in their homes which he entered on the pretext of selling light sticks, when the parents were out.
Yesterday, the 49-year-old was sentenced to 111/2 years in prison and given 15 strokes of the cane. District Judge Crystal Ong described his acts as deplorable. His acts were clearly premeditated, she said, and he knew what to say to make the children fall into his trap.
He was found guilty of six charges including outrage of modesty and, in one case, sexual penetration using his finger.
Six other charges were taken into account during sentencing.
Six victims aged between seven and 13 were involved, including an eight-year-old who was visually impaired. All of them were Malay as it was easier for him to communicate with them. The cases went as far back as 2003.
He was arrested on Oct 15 last year, four days after he molested a pair of siblings - a 10-year-old boy and a seven-year-old girl.
He had gone to their Ang Mo Kio flat at around 10.30am, carrying a bag of light sticks.
When the children told him their parents were not in, he asked the girl to open the door and went in.
He sat on the sofa and asked the children to stand in front of him, with their backs facing him. He then molested them.
After he left, the boy called his mother. She rushed home and phoned the police, telling them: "A guy came in and molested my daughter all over the body. One Malay male wearing black shirt and black pants and black songkok. Need police here immediately."
In 2010, he approached a Secondary 1 and Primary 1 girl, who were neighbourhood friends, at a void deck in Toa Payoh. He offered to teach them mathematics, "cure" them and make them smarter.
He told them to look for certain types of leaves and flowers, then led them to the staircase of the 39th floor of another block. There, he put on a pair of surgical gloves and touched them while doing a "treatment" ritual.
The 2003 incident involved an eight-year-old girl who was blind in one eye. She was on her way to buy sweets with her brother in Marsiling Drive when he approached them at a void deck.
He asked the girl's brother to go off first and the girl to follow him. On the pretext of curing her eye, he asked her to pull down her shorts at a staircase landing of the block and molested her.
His lawyer Sadhana Rai said that Tahir was remorseful for what he did and had been "very sick" for a long period of time, going undiagnosed with the disorder of paedophilia, which could have been controlled.
She argued that he had acted on the spur of the moment each time.
But Deputy Public Prosecutor James Chew said Tahir had a specific modus operandi and pressed for a deterrence sentence, saying it was in the public interest. He highlighted how Tahir's victims were all below 14.
He said: "The accused completely disregarded the youth and the innocence of these children, and cruelly exploited their vulnerability.