Belgian gets 5 years' jail for killing son

Graffart (in black) had suffocated his five- year-old son with a cushion. The sentence shocked his estranged wife Gwendoline, who said he killed their son "to hurt me as much as possible".
Graffart (in black) had suffocated his five- year-old son with a cushion. The sentence shocked his estranged wife Gwendoline, who said he killed their son "to hurt me as much as possible".ST PHOTO: WONG KWAI CHOW

Court says sentence is in line with precedent cases of depressed parents who killed own kids

A Belgian expatriate who smothered his five-year-old son at his apartment amid a bitter custody battle with his estranged French wife was yesterday sentenced to five years' jail.

In sentencing banker Philippe Marcel Guy Graffart, 42, Judicial Commissioner Hoo Sheau Peng noted that a jail term of five years was in line with precedent cases of depressed parents who killed their own children.

"This is a tragic case in which the life of a five-year-old child has been ended by his father in the midst of a custody fight, causing immeasurable pain and suffering to all those left behind," she said.

Keryan Gabriel Cedric Graffart, a pupil of the Canadian International School, was found dead in the master bedroom of a D'Leedon condominium apartment in the Holland Road area on Oct 6 last year. His father had led police to the body.

The sentence was met with "total shock and disbelief" by Graffart's estranged wife Gwendoline Graffart.

In a press statement, Mrs Graffart said her husband killed their son "to hurt me as much as possible".

KILLED SON TO HURT WIFE

The sole purpose of the murder was to hurt me as much as possible.

MRS GWENDOLINE GRAFFART, wife of Philippe Marcel Guy Graffart.

Earlier this month, Graffart pleaded guilty to a charge of culpable homicide for suffocating his son.

The Belgian, who was the head of fund distribution for the Asia-Pacific region with Nordea Bank, was initially charged with murder.

  • PREVIOUS CONVICTIONS FOR SIMILAR CRIMES

    Sentencing precedents of people who killed their children while suffering from depression.

    LIM LAI CHOO (1992) 

    Sentence: Nine years

    She killed her three children, aged three, two and 21 days, after she was convinced her husband was having an affair. She threw two of them from the 11th floor of a block of flats and the third from the sixth floor before jumping down. 

    TAN HANG CHENG (1995) 

    Sentence: Six years

    A week after an argument with her husband over the way she raised their children, Tan threw her two daughters, aged two months and three years, from the window of her apartment on the sixth floor. She then leapt from the flat but survived.

    GOH HAI ENG (2010) 

    Sentence: Five years

    Depressed over her divorce and financial burden, she stabbed her 14-year-old daughter before drinking a cocktail containing alcohol and the medicine she had been prescribed for her bipolar disorder.

This was later reduced as he was assessed to be suffering from a major depressive disorder which substantially impaired his judgment.

Graffart and his wife separated in 2014. A tussle for their only child arose after she wanted to return to France with full custody of Keryan.

On the afternoon of Oct 5 - hours before Graffart killed his son - he received an affidavit pertaining to care and custody proceedings. It contained transcripts of conversations between him and his wife that she had recorded.

Distressed by the contents of the affidavit and pressed by his lawyer for a response, he told his lawyer that he was "so tired of all this" and wanted to stop the legal fight.

He did an Internet search for how long it would take to suffocate and choke a person, and whether one could survive a crash at 150kmh.

That night, between 9pm and 10.17pm, Graffart pressed a cushion over Keryan's head at his 32nd-storey flat. He then tried to kill himself by speeding along the Marina Coastal Expressway (MCE) before deliberately crashing his car into the wall of the tunnel at 10.40pm.

He survived and was taken to Singapore General Hospital but left the hospital and returned to his apartment, where he contemplated other means of suicide before going to the Bukit Timah Neighbourhood Police Centre at about 4.30am on Oct 6.

Innocent child caught in crossfire of custody battle

An officer on duty noticed cuts and scrapes on Graffart's forearms, the needle of an intravenous drip attached to his right hand and a hospital identification tag on his left wrist. When questioned, he told the officer: "I have done something really bad to my son."

 

Yesterday, Graffart's lawyer, Mr Ramesh Tiwary, said that the legal wrangling over custody caused his client to lose 10kg. Graffart went to four different doctors, who put him through a battery of physiological tests and prescribed him sleeping pills, but none of them suggested that he see a psychiatrist.

Mr Tiwary said the unexpected affidavit from Graffart's wife "pushed him beyond the precipice" as he believed it ruined his chances of winning custody. Graffart was overwhelmed by suicidal thoughts and the irrational belief that death would keep him and Keryan together, he said.

"He loved his son very, very deeply. He will have to live with this for the rest of his life; he caused the death of the one person he loved more than anyone else in the world," said the lawyer, seeking four years' jail for his client.

Deputy Public Prosecutor Sharmila Sripathy-Shanaz sought five to six years' jail, relying on precedents. "Keryan did not deserve to have the accused's troubles visited upon him. There can be no justification for killing an innocent and helpless child who, through no fault of his own, was caught in the crossfire of a litigious custody battle," said the DPP.

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on August 23, 2016, with the headline 'Belgian gets 5 years' jail for killing son'. Print Edition | Subscribe