SINGAPORE - A freelance cameraman sexually abused his girlfriend's two underage daughters over a period of six years and both suffered in silence as they were violated by the man they had accepted as their father.
On one occasion he preyed on the older girl under the guise of playing a "game" in which she had to identify different spices and condiments that he put into her mouth while she was blindfolded.
After she tasted ingredients such as sugar and salt from his finger, he lowered his pants and forced the unsuspecting Primary 5 girl to perform a sex act on him.
On Monday (Nov 9), the man, who is now 36, was sentenced to 17 years' jail and 24 strokes of the cane after he pleaded guilty to two counts of sexual assault by penetration of a person under the age of 14 and two counts of outrage of modesty against a person under the age of 14.
Another five charges - three for outrage of modesty of a person under 14, one for attempted sexual assault by penetration of a person under 14, and one for sexual exploitation of a child - were taken into consideration.
He cannot be named due to a gag order to protect the identities of the two victims, who are now 19 and 14 respectively.
The High Court heard that since 2010, the victims were told by their mother, a divorcee, to call the man "daddy" and they treated him as their own father because their biological father had left them when they were very young.
The man occasionally stayed over at their one-room flat and moved in permanently with the sisters, their elder brother and mother sometime at the end of 2014 or early 2015.
He began sexually abusing the older girl in 2012, when she was in Primary 5.
While everyone in the household slept together in the living room, he committed various sexual acts on her, including touching her genitalia and making her perform oral sex on him.
The girl, who was then between 10 and 11 years old, felt angry and annoyed but did not know how to stop him.
Once, he forced her to perform oral sex on him on the pretext of playing the "blindfold game". Immediately after the act, he inserted his finger, which was dipped in something spicy, into her mouth.
This was to "deceive (the victim) into thinking that they were still playing the game," said Deputy Public Prosecutors Nicholas Lai and Rebecca Wong in sentencing arguments.
The abuse carried on for about three years until 2015.
In 2014, the man also turned his attention on the younger sister, who was then eight years old, and abused her until 2017.
Neither sister was aware of what had happened to the other.
On Sept 17, 2017, the younger girl felt she could not take the assaults anymore after the man grabbed her breasts.
The next day, she told school counsellors about the abuse, and they reported the matter to the Ministry of Social and Family Development.
A child protection officer made a police report after calling the girl's mother to meet her at the police station .
The accused, who was with the woman at the time, accompanied her and was arrested at the station.
The offences against the older girl came to light as a result of investigations.
On Monday, the prosecution sought at least 17 years' jail, arguing that the man had exploited his position of authority as a father figure.
Defence counsel Ramesh Tiwary sought 14 to 15 years' jail, saying that the man's decision to plead guilty spared the girls from re-living their trauma by testifying in a trial.