SINGAPORE - Police investigations into a report of rape "should have been carried out better than they were", said a High Court judge, as he cleared a 57-year-old man of raping the teenage daughter of his live-in lover.
No photographs were taken by police of the interior of the cabin of the prime mover where the rapes were alleged to have taken place.
This would have been "important evidence", said Senior Judge Kan Ting Chiu. But as the vehicle was subsequently scrapped, no photographs could be taken.
The alleged victim, who is now 23, had claimed that between 2009 and 2011, when she was between 15 and 16 years old, the accused drove her to a forested area in Punggol in a prime mover.
Over a period of two years, she said she was molested and raped on the rear bench behind the front seats meant for the driver and passenger.
In court, she described the cabin as being furnished with curtains and that the bench was like a "cushion" on which one can sit down.
But the accused disputed her description. He said dirty tools and equipment would be placed on the bench.
His employer, who was called to testify as a prosecution witness, confirmed the equipment would take up half the bench and the inside of the cabin would be filthy with oil stains.
In his judgment, Justice Kan said based on the description of the accused and his employer, the cabin was not a place where the accused could carry out the acts described by the alleged victim.
He said her description of the cabin was confusing and that she was also unable or unwilling to draw a sketch of the interior.
The judge also noted other "disquieting aspects" of her events.
Two charges of sexual assault allegedly took place in the family flat in 2010. The alleged victim said one of the incidents took place after the accused told her younger sister, who was then 13, to leave the flat to buy lunch.
But Justice Kan noted that when the younger sister was on the stand, the sister made no mention of this and was not asked any questions related to it.
During the trial between July and September last year, the court heard the alleged victim lived with her mother, elder brother, younger sister and the accused from 2004 to 2011. The accused, a crane operator, contributed to the family expenses.
The alleged victim first told her boyfriend in April 2010 that the accused had raped her. He then persuaded her to tell her mother, which she eventually did a year later in 2011.
The mother said the girl only claimed to have been "touched" by the accused and that the girl did not want to go to the police, so nothing was done.
In December 2012, she and her younger sister revealed to each other that they had been raped by the accused, and they decided to tell their brother about it.
The brother said he was angered by what he heard and made a police report on his own, without the alleged victim's consent.
After he was acquitted, the man, through his pro bono lawyer Abraham Vergis, said: "I am so grateful to the Criminal Legal Aid Scheme and my lawyers, who worked hard to prove my innocence despite having very little time to prepare for trial."