Describing their abuse of a two- year-old boy which led to his death as "senseless brutality", a judge yesterday sentenced a couple to at least a decade in jail each.
Principal District Judge Bala Reddy said the toddler's 41-year-old mother Zaidah and her boyfriend Zaini Jamari, 46, had inflicted "severe torture" in a "ruthless and unrelenting manner" on Mohamad Daniel Mohamad Nasser. She was sentenced to 11 years' jail and Zaini, 10 years' jail and 12 strokes of the cane.
Both cleaners showed no emotion when their sentences were read, in stark contrast to the boy's father and former caregiver, who could not contain their tears afterwards. They believe the couple should have been given longer sentences.
Zaidah and Zaini had kicked and slapped Daniel almost every day from Oct 18 to Nov 22 last year.
The boy would be made to stand in the kitchen or living room in their Telok Blangah Crescent one-room flat with his hands on his head, wearing only a nappy. The couple also forced him to eat spoonfuls of dried chilli and stomped on his chest. An autopsy found 41 external injuries on Daniel, who died of a head injury on Nov 23.
Neither Zaidah nor Zaini said why they carried out the abuse.
The judge said: "The idea of a mother causing such grievous hurt and ill-treatment of the baby she had carried for nine months is simply incomprehensible."
He said Daniel "had been subjected to abuse and pain at the hands of the very persons who should have been his source of support, comfort and happiness". The couple's conduct in disciplining the boy "with extreme violence leading to his death reveals a senseless brutality which must be punished by a sentence of corresponding severity".
The prosecution had asked for at least nine years' jail for each of them, with nine to 12 strokes of the cane for Zaini, and nine to 12 more months' jail in lieu of caning for Zaidah, who goes by one name.
Madam Masita Hussin, 51, who cared for Daniel for most of his life after taking him in as a month-old baby through a friend, was present in court. Daniel's biological father, Mr Mohamad Nasser Abdul Gani, 42, and uncle, Mr Abdu Manaf Al Ansari, 48, also turned up.
After the sentencing, Mr Nasser broke down outside the courtroom.
He had not known about Zaidah's pregnancy when they divorced and found out about Daniel only before he went to jail for drug-related offences. He vowed to turn over a new leaf and care for the boy, but could not find Zaidah after his release.
"It's not enough," said Mr Nasser, who never saw his son alive. "Until now, my heart hurts. They go to prison and will come out. Will my son be able to get up from his grave?"
On June 23, Zaidah and Zaini were each convicted of one count of voluntarily causing grievous hurt to Daniel, and three counts of ill-treating him. Zaidah, who has five other children, admitted to 26 other charges of abusing the boy, and Zaini, 18 other counts.
Last October, they moved into the rental flat with Daniel and their one-year-old daughter. Ms Puspawati Abdul Razat, 51, Zaidah's friend, rented the flat. Her niece, 15, also lived there at the time.