Man who fatally assaulted stepdaughter, 4, cleared of murder, convicted of causing grievous hurt instead

SINGAPORE - A 29-year-old man who assaulted his four-year-old stepdaughter in anger after she urinated on the floor was acquitted of murder on Tuesday (March 1).

Muhammad Salihin Ismail was instead convicted of a lesser charge of voluntarily causing grievous hurt.

High Court judge Pang Khang Chau found that although Salihin had kicked the victim intentionally, there was no intention to strike the part of the body that was fatally injured.

"The evidence of the accused was that he was reacting angrily when he kicked the victim. He had simply kicked what was in front of him (which happened to be the victim's abdomen) and was not aiming at any particular part of the victim's body," said the judge.

The element of an intention to inflict the fatal bodily injury has not been proven, Justice Pang added.

Salihin went on trial last year on a charge of murder for causing the girl, Nursabrina Agustiani Abdullah, to suffer fatal abdominal injuries between Sept 1 and Sept 2, 2018, at the family's rental flat in Bukit Batok.

The girl, who was known to her family as Sabrina, was taken to hospital on the morning of Sept 2 and pronounced dead at about 10.15am.

Salihin married the girl's mother, Syabilla Syamien Riyadi, 24, in 2016 when Sabrina was two years old.

The couple also have a pair of twin boys together.

The court heard there were two incidents on Sept 1 when Salihin became angry with the girl for urinating on the floor. The girl's mother was at work at the time.

In the first incident in the morning, he reacted by placing the girl on the toilet bowl.

Prosecutors accused Salihin of punching the girl, but the judge accepted that the accused had merely used his fist to hold her in place.

In the second incident that afternoon, Salihin pushed her and kicked her abdomen twice while she was lying on the floor.

That evening, the girl complained of a stomachache and started vomiting, which went on overnight. She became unconscious the next morning.

An autopsy found that she had died from internal bleeding in the abdomen due to blunt force trauma.

Salihin, who was defended by Mr Eugene Thuraisingam, suggested that other events that afternoon had contributed to the injuries.

He said the injuries could also have been caused by the vomiting action, when the twins "bounced" on Sabrina's stomach, or when he performed cardiopulmonary resuscitation on her.

But Justice Pang found that the contributory effect of these incidents were negligible.

The case has been adjourned for sentencing. The offence of causing grievous hurt carries a jail term of up to 10 years and a fine or caning.

Salihin also faces two other charges for other acts of violence against the girl.

He is accused of scalding her with hot water flowing from a shower head, which he had allegedly placed on her back for five to six seconds at his parents' flat between July and October 2017.

He is also accused of slamming her head against the floor between January and April 2018.

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