This story was first published in July 2015 in an e-book titled Guilty As Charged: 25 Crimes That Have Shaken Singapore Since 1965. A collaboration between The Straits Times and the Singapore Police Force, the e-book appeared in The Straits Times Star E-books app. Read the other crime stories here. (Warning: Some content in these stories may be disturbing for some individuals.)
Killing of Nonoi (2006)
When a two-year-old girl went missing, her stepdad joined the search. But it was he who had murdered her, and hidden the body
When two-year-old Nurasyura Mohamed Fauzi, affectionately known as Nonoi, suddenly went missing on March 1, 2006, relatives, neighbours and even road sweepers joined police in a massive search.
The MacPherson Residents’ Committee helped distribute 5,000 fliers in four languages, seeking information on the little girl’s whereabouts.
She had disappeared from her grandparents’ ground floor unit at Block 62, Circuit Road.
On the morning of March 4, her stepfather Mohammed Ali Johari told his wife and his mother-in-law that Nonoi was dead and he was responsible.
That day, the 29-year-old led police to the Aljunied Flyover along the Pan Island Expressway.
Under the lowest portion of the flyover, was a gap less than half a metre high and which police had to crawl on their bellies to get to.
It was there that they found the nude body of a female toddler with shoulder-length hair.
It was partially decomposed and covered with litter and debris.
DNA tests confirmed that it was Nonoi.
When Ali was later brought by the police to his flat at Pipit Road and that of his parents just 500m away, he was confronted by enraged neighbours, who shouted expletives at him.
Ali had put up a charade by joining in the search for Nonoi, putting up posters asking for witnesses and offering special prayers.
The autopsy found that her lungs were waterlogged and over-expanded, consistent with being drowned or immersed in water.
Ali admitted that he had repeatedly dunked her head in a pail of water to stop her from crying.
Nonoi was also found to have injuries consistent with having been sexually assaulted.
There were cuts to her external genital area and her hymen was completely destroyed.
Ali repeatedly denied raping the girl.
He married Nonoi’s mother Mastura Kamsir in late 2005.
By then, Madam Mastura, in her early 20s, was already a mother of three. The youngest was her son with Ali.
The other two were from her first marriage. Her first son was born in 2000. She gave birth to Nonoi in 2003 while serving a jail sentence. During the trial, tests revealed that Nonoi’s father was not Madam Mastura’s first husband but another man.
Ali, who was a cough syrup and marijuana addict, had three children with his first wife, whom he divorced after getting Madam Mastura pregnant.
When he and Madam Mastura wed, they moved into a small rental one-room flat. They lived with the son they had together and Nonoi, and developed a routine.
Ali, a dispatch rider, and Madam Mastura, a traditional masseuse, would take the two children to his parents’ Circuit Road flat and bring them back to their Pipit Road home after work.
On the day of the murder, they walked to his parents’ place at noon and left the children there to go window-shopping since it was Madam Mastura’s payday.
After lunch, he sent his wife to work at about 2pm.
He was not working that day so he returned to the Circuit Road flat at about 2.15pm.
After a short while, he told police that he decided to bring Nonoi for a walk.
Then she started crying.
He took her to a provision shop but she did not want him to buy her sweets. He went to his friend’s flat nearby but he was not in. Ali then went back to his flat.
All through this, he said, the little girl was crying on and off. She insisted on going back to her grandparents’ home.
“I switched on the TV and radio. Noi began to cry. I got very angry and demanded her to stop crying,” he told police. “I slapped her face, body and punched her thigh. She cried even louder.”
He also said: “They were not real punches that would injure her badly. If I had punched her hard, my wife would know and scold me.”
He told Nonoi to be quiet or else “Papa masuk dalam air (Papa put you in water)”.
She did not stop, he said.
“I pulled her hand and forced her into the toilet in the kitchen. I kept on threatening to put her into the water. She cried loudly. There was one red plastic pail in the toilet.
“It was half-filled with water. I removed her shirt and pants. She did not struggle but kept on crying. She was wearing pampers.
“I gripped both her legs, just slightly above the ankles, and raised her upwards. I then pushed her legs up and her head was facing the pail. I threatened her again that I would put her in.
“She still kept on crying.
“I lowered her legs and her head was submerged into the water in the pail. The head touched the bottom part of the pail.”
He held her there for a few seconds then took her out. Given that she was all wet, he took off her pampers and asked her to “cebok” (to wash the private parts).
She was not doing it fast enough so “I hurriedly used my left hand to wash her buttock and private parts. I did it in a hurry and used more strength”.
Nonoi kept on crying.
He put her in the pail again, having filled it with more water.
When he took her out, she fell and the back of her head hit the floor. “I rubbed her head and I felt there was a bump.”
Nonoi continued to cry.
He put her in the pail again.
“I pressed her downwards some more until both her legs were in the pail and her body was in a foetus position.
“At this point of time, my handphone rang.”
He went to answer it and had a short conversation. He could not recall who he spoke to.
“When I returned to the toilet, Nonoi was already motionless.”
He pressed her stomach and blew air into her mouth but Nonoi did not move.
“When I saw Nonoi like this, I became scared because she had died. I did not have the intention to cause her death. I love Nonoi very much,” he told police.
He dressed her in the same clothes she had on earlier, carried her back to his parents’ flat, put her onto a bed, then left.
The Circuit Road flat has both front and back exits, making it possible for people to enter and leave easily.
Nonoi’s step-grandfather Johari Mohd Yus, a retiree, saw her at around 7.20pm — not realising that she was already dead.
As he began his evening prayers, Ali returned and took Nonoi’s body with him.
He said in court that he wept and talked to her as he placed her lifeless body in a drain under the Aljunied flyover and covered it with rubbish.
“Nonoi, get up, Nonoi. I leave you here for a while,” he said he told the two-year-old.
After performing his evening prayers in the living room, at around 7.35pm, Mr Johari found that Nonoi was missing from the bed.
Ali blamed his father for her disappearance.
He told his wife when he went to fetch her.
After they searched around the estate, Nonoi’s mother finally made a police report at 11.20pm.
A few days later, Ali could not keep the secret any longer. In front of his wife and mother-in-law, he broke down and cried: “Nonoi, no more.”
At 11.45am, he turned himself over at Bedok Police Station.
Prosecutors in Ali’s murder trial in early 2007 charged that he had sexually assaulted her, and made up the explanation of how she died to cover it up.
He vehemently denied this, saying: “I hope this is the last time that I tell the court that I would not do such things.”
Police also obtained Ali’s phone records from MobileOne for the period between Feb 27 and March 4. It showed several incoming calls on March 3. But on the day Nonoi died, Ali did not answer a single call on his phone.
In court, he changed his story. He said that he did hear a “ringing” sound, but was not sure whether it came from his phone or the radio. He claimed he never left the toilet to answer any calls, and was confused and scared when he gave his statements to police.
Instead, Nonoi grew weak after he dunked her for the third time, which he demonstrated live in court using a pail and dummy.
Two alternative causes of death were also considered in court: an unexpected abnormal heart rhythm or an onset of fits.
Justice Kan Ting Chiu ruled that, with insufficient evidence to support those two possibilities, death was caused by the “effects of the immersions”.
He said that “the accused intentionally kept Nonoi immersed in the water for a longer duration on the third occasion and it was not accidental”.
On Aug 31, 2007, he sentenced 31-year-old Ali to death.
During his appeal, Ali’s lawyer R.S. Bajwa argued that his client had no intention of causing the child bodily injury. Even if he had, the intended injury — which was to deprive her of air temporarily — was minor.
Judge of Appeal V.K. Rajah did not mince his words when he replied: “Wouldn’t it be apparent to any person that dipping a young child into a pail of water, not once but three times, would cause not just minor but major injuries?
“It’s the cruelest thing you can do to a young child.”
Mr Bajwa also noted that the trial judge had “side-stepped” the issue of whether Ali had molested Nonoi, which he argued was critical because the prosecution had built a case that he had sexually abused and then silenced her.
The three-judge appeals court however decided that there was enough evidence to show that Ali had been responsible for the sexual injuries found on Nonoi.
The appeal was dismissed.
On Dec 19, 2008, Ali was hanged at Changi prison.