Jailed for pushing autistic son out of window

The woman was jailed for five years for culpable homicide not amounting to murder. Her son died in a fall from their ninth-floor flat. A psychiatrist found that a relapse had impaired the woman's mental responsibility for killing her autistic son.
The woman was jailed for five years for culpable homicide not amounting to murder. Her son died in a fall from their ninth-floor flat. A psychiatrist found that a relapse had impaired the woman's mental responsibility for killing her autistic son.ST FILE PHOTO

Mum blamed boy, 7, for marital blues, exhaustion; she suffered relapse of depressive disorder

A working mother, who was the primary caregiver of her seven-year-old autistic son, pushed him out the kitchen window of their ninth-floor Tampines flat after she was seized by thoughts that he was the reason for her exhaustion and marital problems.

Yesterday, the 43-year-old was sentenced to five years in jail, after she pleaded guilty to culpable homicide not amounting to murder, for killing the younger of her two sons on Sept 13, 2014 - a day before her 42nd birthday and five days before her 15th wedding anniversary.

A gag order on the identity of the dead boy was made by District Judge May Mesenas on Sept 15, 2014, when the woman was charged.

Yesterday, the High Court heard that the woman, who has had a history with the Institute of Mental Health (IMH) since 2008, had suffered a relapse of a major depressive disorder.

The condition impaired her mental responsibility for her actions, an IMH psychiatrist found.

Her husband and older son, who wrote letters pleading for leniency, were not in court. Several friends came to court to support her and she burst into tears talking to them after she was sentenced.

In sentencing the woman, Justice Tay Yong Kwang noted that, "far from being angry" with her, her husband and son longed for her return to the family.

The judge took into account that her condition had improved with treatment while she was in custody, that there was a low risk of her comitting future violent acts, and that she had admitted what she had done readily.

"I hope you recover well and that you can return home much stronger emotionally to rebuild your family and personal life," said Justice Tay.

The court heard that the woman, an education manager at a cosmetics company, woke up at 4.30am on Sept 13, 2014, to do housework.

An earlier tiff escalated when she shouted at her husband to take the laundry in from the rain. He threw the laundry on the floor before leaving the flat with the older son.

She cleared the mess, took a shower, then cleaned up her younger son, who had defecated in his trousers. After taking a rest, she felt that he was the reason for her exhaustion and decided to kill him.

She coaxed the boy to a stool at the kitchen window and told him to look down to locate his grandmother. When he did so, she grabbed his calves and pushed him out, sending him plunging to his death.

When the police arrived, they found her dazed and hugging a pillow. She collapsed in hysterical tears when the officers said they were investigating a fall.

Yesterday, asking for jail of not more than five years, her lawyer, Mr Anand Nalachandran, noted that she sacrificed her own well-being for the needs of the family and buckled under the weight of being a working wife and mother.

In the days before the incident, she was juggling work, housework and childcare alone as her husband was abroad. When he returned on Sept 12, there was tension instead of celebrations for her birthday and their wedding anniversary .

The lawyer noted that after her arrest, she lost her grip on reality and kept repeating that her son had not eaten lunch. She did not eat or sleep for days while in custody.

Deputy Public Prosecutor Krystle Chiang, seeking five to seven years in jail, said that while this was a tragic case, there was an element of premeditation against a vulnerable victim whose life was "needlessly and prematurely extinguished".

The maximum punishment for culpable homicide with intention to cause death is life imprisonment or up to 20 years in jail, with a possible fine or caning.

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on March 19, 2016, with the headline 'Jailed for pushing autistic son out of window'. Print Edition | Subscribe