Man admits causing death of stepdaughter he hit with exercise bar; wife did not intervene

SINGAPORE - For months, an 11-year-old girl was ill-treated by her mother and stepfather, who made her eat chilli padi, splashed hot water on her and hit her with a belt to punish her.

In October 2020, the man, an auxiliary police officer, started beating her with an exercise bar he bought for his home workouts.

On Nov 6, 2020, he swung the bar at her head several times, inflicting blows which led to her death four days later. The girl’s mother did not intervene.

Despite signs of internal bleeding, the couple decided against taking the girl to the hospital, and called for an ambulance only on Nov 10.

On Monday, the 28-year-old man pleaded guilty in the High Court to a charge of culpable homicide for causing the girl’s death, and four charges for other acts of abuse he carried out on the girl.

His 29-year-old wife pleaded guilty to one charge of failing to take steps to protect the girl from the fatal assault, and two charges for other acts of abuse she carried out.

This makes her the first person to be convicted of allowing the death of a child in the same household, which was introduced in 2020 to target those who fail to protect victims from abuse.

The couple will be sentenced at a later date.

They cannot be named owing to a gag order. They have a two-year-old son together and two other sons, aged seven and eight, from the woman’s previous relationship.

Deputy Public Prosecutor Kumaresan Gohulabalan told the court that in early 2020, the man got upset with the victim, as he believed that she had been stealing items in their flat. He was also angry at her for eating too slowly.

In March 2020, the man asked the girl to stand on a table and hold a 1.5-litre water bottle at shoulder level. He then caned her and hit her with a belt.

The assault, which caused the girl to suffer multiple bruises on her arms, buttocks, thighs and legs, lasted for about 20 to 30 minutes.

The man’s family members, who saw the bruises a few days later, scolded the man for abusing the girl and the woman for not stopping him, but the abuse continued.

He hit the girl with a wooden backscratcher, made her eat chilli padi until she vomited and beat her with the exercise bar.

The woman also made her eat chilli padi and poured hot water on her while she was sleeping.

Between Aug 26 and Oct 28, 2020, the girl did not attend school, as the couple was worried that the injuries would be discovered.

On Sept 29, 2020, two representatives from the girl’s school visited the flat, but the couple did not allow them to enter.

On Oct 15, 2020, a student welfare officer from the school asked for a video call with the girl with an officer from the Child Protective Service (CPS).

During the call, the CPS officer did not observe any injury on the girl, as she was wearing long-sleeved pyjamas and was made to sit at a spot with dim lighting.

On Nov 6, 2020, the man repeatedly swung the exercise bar at the girl’s head, which knocked her out.

He sprinkled water on her face, recited prayers and repeatedly called her, and the girl responded after two minutes.

The girl was bleeding from her right ear and her head was swollen, which made the man panic, as he knew that she required medical attention.

The couple discussed whether to take her to hospital, but decided against doing so, as they did not know how to account for her injuries.

After the man left for work, the girl felt dizzy and vomited on her mattress.

In the early morning of Nov 7, the woman told the man that there was blood in the girl’s ear, but he told her it was “nothing”.

The girl could not clench her right hand, but the man made her go into a push-up position. When she fell to the floor, he hit her back with the exercise bar.

On Nov 9, the girl cried out in pain when her mother massaged her arms.

“When (the man) returned home from work at around 11pm, he approached the deceased and saw that she was weak and in a grim state. He apologised to her,” said the DPP.

On Nov 10, the woman called her husband at work and told him the girl had blacked out. The man spoke to his supervisor who told him to call an ambulance.

At the hospital, the couple told doctors that she had fallen from the stairs while she was skateboarding a few days ago. They later admitted to the police that they had assaulted the girl.

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