Mum admits abusing 4-year-old who later died

Boy died from head injuries after assault for being unable to recite numbers 11 to 18 in Malay

Frustrated that his learning ability did not match her expectations, a mother stepped on the ribs of her then two-year-old son, in the first of several instances of physical abuse.

In August 2014, the abuse turned fatal when four-year-old Mohammad Airyl Amirul Haziq Mohamed Ariff died from head injuries after he was assaulted for being unable to recite 11 to 18 in Malay.

Yesterday, Noraidah Mohd Yussof, 34, who was unemployed when this happened, pleaded guilty to two counts each of causing grievous hurt and of ill-treating a child. Two other counts of ill-treatment will be taken into consideration during sentencing at a later date.

The bespectacled divorcee with shoulder-length hair admitted to six instances of physical abuse - one in March 2012 and five between June and August 2014 - at her Eunos flat.

The court heard that in 2012, when the boy was two, Noraidah, who has an older daughter, became irritated when he could not follow her instructions when she tried to teach him the alphabet.

She pushed him and stepped on his ribs after he fell to the floor.


ST ILLUSTRATION: MIEL

She then gave him some paper as he said he wanted to draw. When he scribbled on the sofa instead, she twisted his hand in anger.

Later, she took him to the hospital, where he was found with fractures to an elbow, calf and four ribs, as well as multiple bruises.

The case was referred to a medical social worker, but Noraidah lied that her son hurt himself in a fall.

The Ministry of Family and Social Development decided to place the boy in the care of her brother and sister-in-law. He was later returned to Noraidah's care.

  • Asperger's diagnosis may affect sentence

  • Before Noraidah Mohd Yussof can be sentenced for abusing her son, the court has to determine whether or not she has Asperger's syndrome - an autism-like disorder that affects how a person interacts with others.

    Defence psychiatrist Tommy Tan has diagnosed her with the condition, relying largely on interviews with her family members, primarily her mother.

    But the prosecution rejects this diagnosis.

    Dr Subhash Gupta from the Institute of Mental Health, who saw Noraidah and interviewed her family members not long after the boy's death in 2014, does not think she has Asperger's.

    Deputy Public Prosecutor April Phang told the High Court yesterday that in 2014, Noraidah's mother told Dr Gupta that there was "nothing wrong" with her.

    However, the following year, her family members gave a different account to the defence psychiatrist, which resulted in Dr Tan concluding that Noraidah has Asperger's.

    The DPP, noting that Dr Gupta also spoke to Noraidah's former husband and former boyfriend, pointed out that her family members were "interested parties".

    A further hearing will be held for the family members to testify and both psychiatrists to give their opinions.

    The issue could have a bearing on the sentence meted out to Noraidah, who is represented by Mr Sunil Sudheesan.

    She faces up to 10 years in jail and a fine for causing grievous hurt and a fine of up to $4,000 and jail of up to four years for ill-treatment of a child.

    Selina Lum

In 2014, Noraidah inflicted various abuses on her son, including lifting him by the neck and then dropping him.

On the afternoon of July 30, she pushed the boy when he could not recite numbers, causing him to hit the back of his head on the TV console. That night, she scolded him for defecating on the floor. When he went over to her after cleaning himself up, she kicked him and stepped on him.

On Aug 1, after she fetched the boy from school, she asked him to recite the numbers 11 to 18 in English, then Malay. But he could not do so in Malay, and she shouted at him in disappointment.

After the boy woke up from a nap, she asked him to recite the numbers again - but he still got them wrong. Agitated, she pushed him, causing him to fall backwards and hit his head on the floor. He got up and continued reciting as he followed her around the flat; she continued to assault him - pushing him to the floor and stepping on his knees.

She then told him to shower and get ready as she was going to fetch his sister from school. As Noraidah took a shower, he stood outside the bathroom and continued reciting.

Angry that the boy was still mumbling numbers instead of getting ready, she held him by the neck until he was lifted off the ground against the wall. He started gasping for air and later stopped moving.

When a neighbour came over after she asked for help, Noraidah lied that the boy hit his head after a fall in the toilet. The 14-year-old neighbour advised her to call for an ambulance before leaving the flat.

Noraidah's sister-in-law arrived not long after, and the two women carried the boy to a clinic, where the doctor called for an ambulance.

Despite emergency surgery to remove a part of his skull to allow his swelling brain to expand, the boy died four days later. Multiple scars and scores of bruises and abrasions were found all over his body.

Noraidah, who said she was stressed over her financial problems when she pushed her son, was initially charged with causing grievous hurt. After the boy died, this was upgraded to murder, but the original charge has since been restored.

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on March 29, 2016, with the headline 'Mum admits abusing 4-year-old who later died'. Print Edition | Subscribe