A 45-year-old cleaner's sexual abuse of his landlord's young daughter came to light after the eight-year-old told her mother that the man "likes me very much", the High Court heard yesterday.
For three months, Arshad Dullah, a Malaysian, plied the girl with gifts of folded paper boats, paper airplanes, food and pens, before moving on to massaging her limbs and shoulders. When she did not complain to her mother, he progressed to more intrusive acts, sexually violating her.
After his arrest, he claimed he sexually violated her to create a "love potion" to endear himself to those around him and to stop others from bullying him at work.
He was sentenced to 18 years' jail and 24 strokes of the cane, after pleading guilty to three charges of aggravated sexual assault by penetration. Six other charges were taken into consideration.
The girl and her family cannot be named to protect her identity.
The court heard that the girl's parents rented out two bedrooms in their four-room Housing Board flat. They trusted Arshad as he had been a long-term tenant since 2012. But Arshad seized on opportunities to sexually abuse the girl when she was alone in the living room or in the kitchen. The girl's father, who uses a wheelchair and is undergoing dialysis, usually remained in the family's bedroom.
In February last year, Arshad began chatting with the girl and giving her gifts. He started touching her to test her reaction, but she did not tell her mother about it.
In March, the sexual acts escalated. On one occasion, he asked the girl to follow him to the kitchen, where he sexually violated her. Another time, in April, after he assaulted her, he told the girl not to tell her mother.
On May 6 last year, the girl told her mother she believed Arshad liked her as he always gave her gifts. Pressed further, the girl revealed the sexual acts. The girl's 42-year-old mother contacted Arshad's employer, and asked him to leave the flat immediately.
The next day, the girl told her mother she was very scared as she kept thinking about what Arshad had done to her. The woman sought help at a family service centre. The matter was referred to the Ministry of Social and Family Development. A police report was made on May 11, and Arshad was arrested later that day. A psychiatric report stated that he was "likely to have paedophilic tendencies".
Deputy Public Prosecutor Sruthi Boppana argued that Arshad had shown premeditation in exploiting a vulnerable victim.
His assigned lawyer, Mr Henry G.S. Lim, argued that Arshad had pleaded guilty at the first available opportunity, sparing the victim the ordeal of having to testify in court.