SINGAPORE - 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 on Tuesday (Aug 7).
For three months, Arshad Dullah, a Malaysian, plied the girl with gifts of folded paper boats, paper aeroplanes, 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 he was arrested, he claimed that 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 victim 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 to earn extra income. They trusted Arshad, as he had been a 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 the physical contact.
In March, the sexual acts escalated.
On one occasion, when the door to the family's bedroom was closed, 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 the morning of May 6, 2017, the girl told her mother that she believes Arshad liked her, as he always gives her gifts. Pressed further, the girl revealed the sexual acts that were performed on her.
The girl's 42-year-old mother contacted Arshad's employer and asked that he leave the flat immediately.
The following day, the girl continued to confide in her mother, saying that she was very scared, as she kept thinking about what Arshad had done to her.
Unsure of what to do, the woman sought help at a nearby 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 abused the trust of the girl's family and showed 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.