Boy wasn't a difficult child, says former caregiver

Two-year-old Daniel was pronounced dead on Nov 23 last year after he was kicked and slapped nearly every day by his biological mother and her boyfriend for about five weeks.
Two-year-old Daniel was pronounced dead on Nov 23 last year after he was kicked and slapped nearly every day by his biological mother and her boyfriend for about five weeks.PHOTO: COURTESY OF ABDU MANAF AL ANSARI

For most of his life, two-year-old Mohamad Daniel Mohamad Nasser lived happily with his foster family in a two-room flat in Ang Mo Kio.

Madam Masita Hussin, 51, a housewife, took him in through a friend when he was a month-old baby and raised him as her own with her three children.

Growing up, he called her "ibu" - "mother" in Malay.

"Whenever he saw his (real mother Zaidah), he would cry," said Madam Masita, who did not know the 41-year-old cleaner previously.

Zaidah bought him essentials such as nappies and he would sometimes stay with her on weekends.

 
 
 

She paid Madam Masita $250 a month to care for the boy, although at times the money did not come. But the older woman did not mind.

"I didn't think that she might be bad. All I wanted to do was take care of Daniel," she said. The boy showed no signs of ill-treatment back then.

Daniel was pronounced dead on Nov 23 last year after he was kicked and slapped nearly every day by a pregnant Zaidah and her 46-year- old boyfriend Zaini Jamari for about five weeks.

Zaidah has six children, including Daniel, but the three oldest ones do not live with her.

Daniel stopped living with Madam Masita last August, when his mother came for him. "They never returned him," said Madam Masita.

Zaidah began avoiding her, wanting to care for Daniel on her own. Madam Masita later found out where Daniel was living and started meeting him secretly.

From September to early October last year, Daniel and his half-sister were looked after by another carer, Ms Yusnita Mohamed Idrus, 41. When Madam Masita saw Daniel again, she was so relieved that she cried.

The children moved to Telok Blangah Crescent to live with their mother and her boyfriend in mid- October when Ms Yusnita had to undergo an operation. Madam Masita lost contact with the boy.

She thought she would see him again in December when she and Ms Yusnita planned to take him out for his third birthday.

But in November, one of her sons received a call from Ms Yusnita to say that Daniel had died.

"He was a happy boy. We love him so much," said Madam Masita. "He was not a difficult child."

He would not ask for toys, but played with make-up brushes at home instead.

"Even though I didn't give birth to him, I treated him as my own son," said Madam Masita. "Why did she have to abuse this boy? Isn't it better to leave him with us so he can grow up?"

She did not think Zaidah was capable of hurting Daniel and had found her sweet-looking initially.

Once, when she met the boy secretly, she saw marks on his cheek. Another time, she heard that he had a swollen eye. She was told that his mother claimed they were from accidents and that the marks on his cheek were from playing with his half-sister.

But Madam Masita said: "I've seen the kids together and they wouldn't even touch each other."

Since his death, Daniel has constantly been on her mind. Before she sleeps, she looks at pictures of him on her handphone. "Every day, I cry," said Madam Masita with tears in her eyes. "Every day, I pray to be able to see his face again."

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on July 06, 2016, with the headline 'Boy wasn't a difficult child, says former caregiver'. Print Edition | Subscribe