Woman who went on 4-month stealing spree jailed for 50 weeks

SINGAPORE - A woman branded "a recalcitrant thief" was jailed for 50 weeks on Tuesday (Dec 12) after swiping cash and other property from shops and stealing handbags from people in public places over a four-month period.

Azma Masoh Di, 46, committed 16 offences of theft or attempted theft over that time, a court heard.

When she was arrested on Aug 17 for the attempted theft of a handbag at a food centre in People's Park Complex, the odd-job worker was found to be in fraudulent possession of eight ez-link cards.

Deputy Public Prosecutor Jason Nim called her a recalcitrant thief, noting that previous convictions in 2016 showed an escalation in the severity of her offences.

In June 2016, she was jailed for seven weeks for theft and jailed again in August the same year, this time for 19 weeks.

Azma, who faced 29 charges, pleaded guilty to 10 counts of theft, attempted theft, fraudulent possession, causing hurt and dishonest misappropriation of a handbag.

District Judge Lim Tse Haw backdated her sentence to Aug 19 this year.

Mr Nim said the pattern of her offences revealed premeditation in that she deliberately exploited the carelessness of her victims.

In some cases, Azma took deliberate steps to avoid detection by distracting victims.

On April 24, she entered LL Jia Hwa Trading, a textile shop selling children's clothes at Chinatown Complex. She walked to a corner where the cash drawer was and used her body to block the view of the owner Liu Bin, 50.

While pretending to browse through the clothes, Azma opened the drawer and stole $70.

Ms Liu was suspicious and after finding the money missing, grabbed Azma as she was trying to leave and a scuffle ensued.

Azma bit Ms Liu's left forearm and told her that she was suffering from "illness", said Mr Nim.

In an incident on July 28, the court heard that Ms Wu Shixian, 59, had placed her bag on an adjacent chair when having a meal with a friend at the Xie Lao Song restaurant in Smith Street.

At about 8.30pm, Azma sat next to their table without ordering any food. A few minutes later she took Ms Wu's bag and left. Ms Wu discovered the loss when she looked for her phone.

A staff member told her that she had seen Azma leave with two bags.

Ms Wu's bag contained her bank cards, dependant's pass, ez-link card with a stored value of $10, a pair of Gucci sunglasses worth $1,500, a $600 Gucci wallet, cash of $320 and a blue bag worth $300, totalling $2,730.

Azma's lawyer, Ms Alice Tan, who was assigned by the Criminal Legal Aid Scheme, said that her client had a troubled past, two failed marriages and was a mother of six, although one of her children died not long after birth.

Ms Tan said Azma had an "unhappy childhood", faced tremendous financial pressure and suffered from depression, mood swings and insomnia.

"She has come to realise that living a life of crime cannot be her way of life, especially in dealing with her financial and familial issues. She is determined to close this chapter of her life and start a fresh one for the sake of her mother and children," she added.