Man caused baby's death while playing phone game

Five weeks after his baby had been discharged from hospital where she was treated for a broken skull after he accidentally dropped her, Mohamed Shiddiq Sazali negligently caused her death when she apparently choked on her milk while he was feeding her and playing a game on his mobile phone.

Shiddiq, 28, was yesterday sentenced to six months' jail for causing his daughter's death. He was given a concurrent sentence of three months' jail for causing grievous hurt to the baby by doing a negligent act to endanger her personal safety.

District Judge Carol Ling backdated his sentence to Oct 17.

Deputy Public Prosecutor Stephanie Koh said Shiddiq had displayed a high degree of negligence in causing the death of his 31/2-month-old daughter on Oct 12, 2015. She said he had clearly prioritised his cellphone game over the welfare of the victim.

He had been playing the mobile football game before his then girlfriend, Ms Nurraishah Mahzan, 32, the child's mother, left home and entrusted the care of the baby to him.

Placing the child on his lap, Shiddiq used one hand to hold the milk bottle to her mouth and the other hand to play the game.

"While this, in itself, falls short of the appropriate level of care, it is further aggravated by the fact that the accused was not even looking at the deceased as he fed her," she said.

Even more alarmingly, DPP Koh said, Shiddiq showed blatant indifference to the child's signs of distress. When he began feeding her, she was fidgeting and rejecting the bottle. Yet he continued to hold the bottle to her mouth, which was akin to force-feeding her.

The baby thrashed about for some two minutes before she apparently choked on her milk.

Although the cause of death could not be ascertained, a forensic pathologist said leaving the milk bottle in the baby's mouth might have resulted in the blocking of her upper airway, and introduced an element of "mechanical asphyxia'', possibly culminating in her death, which was entirely avoidable.

That was not all. On Aug 26, 2015, Shiddiq had negligently dropped the baby on her head. He had failed to support her head as he bent down to pick up a pacifier at a void deck of an HDB block. The baby fell backwards and hit her head on the ground, and suffered a broken skull. She was hospitalised for two weeks.

DPP Koh said he had breached a "discharge plan'' prepared by the Ministry of Social and Family Development. It included a condition that the baby had to be supervised and accompanied by at least two adults, unless a babysitter was present.

The maximum penalty for causing death by negligence is two years' jail and a fine. For causing grievous hurt, he could have been jailed for up to two years and/or fined up to $5,000.

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on November 21, 2017, with the headline 'Man caused baby's death while playing phone game'. Print Edition | Subscribe