Woman gets 50 weeks' jail for spate of thefts

A woman branded "a recalcitrant thief" was jailed for 50 weeks yesterday for swiping cash and other property from shops and stealing handbags from people in public places.

Azma Masoh Di, 46, committed 16 offences of theft or attempted theft over a four-month period.

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

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. Deputy Public Prosecutor Jason Nim called her a recalcitrant thief, noting that she had been jailed for theft last year.

He said the pattern of her offences showed 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 a textile shop selling children's clothes at Chinatown Complex. She walked to where the cash drawer was and used her body to block the view of shop owner Liu Bin, 50.

While pretending to browse through the clothes, she opened the drawer and stole $70. Ms Liu was suspicious and after finding the money missing, grabbed Azma as she was trying to leave.

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

On July 28, Ms Wu Shixian, 59, had placed her bag on an adjacent chair in a restaurant in Smith Street. At about 8.30pm, Azma sat next to Ms Wu's table for a few minutes before taking the bag and leaving.

When Ms Wu discovered the loss, a staff member told her she had seen Azma leave with two bags. Ms Wu's bag had $2,730 worth of items.

Azma's lawyer, Ms Alice Tan, assigned by the Criminal Legal Aid Scheme, said her client had a troubled past, two failed marriages and five children.

She added that Azma realised a life of crime cannot help her deal 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," Ms Tan added.

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on December 13, 2017, with the headline 'Woman gets 50 weeks' jail for spate of thefts'. Print Edition | Subscribe