Woman who instigated stepdaughter, 8, to spike her birth mother’s drink gets jail

SINGAPORE - A woman was sentenced to a year’s jail on Thursday after her eight-year-old stepdaughter tried to spike her birth mother’s drink with poison at her instigation.

The 32-year-old Vietnamese national cannot be named due to a gag order protecting the child’s identity.

At the time of the offence, she was married to a 44-year-old man. The victim is the man’s ex-wife. The girl is their child. The couple finalised their divorce in 2017 and in 2018, the man married again.

The girl had a close relationship with her stepmother.

The two women, however, had a highly acrimonious relationship as the girl’s birth mother blamed the stepmother for the breakdown of her marriage.

“The victim occasionally sent insulting text messages to the accused and posted comments of a similar nature targeting the accused on Facebook. Consequently, the accused became increasingly stressed and angry with the victim,” said Deputy Public Prosecutor (DPP) Kwang Jia Min.

On Jan 4, 2020, the stepmother asked the girl how she would address her in the victim’s presence. When the girl said she would call her “jie jie”, which means sister in Mandarin, she was upset as she believed she treated the girl like her daughter.

She threw a tantrum and told the girl not to speak to her any more as the girl did not love her. The girl became distressed at this and asked how she could make it up to her stepmother, said the DPP.

At the time, the stepmother had in her possession some tablets which she had bought from a pharmacy in Vietnam as she previously experienced pain and had trouble sleeping after undergoing surgery in 2019.

As she was angry at what the girl had said and at what the victim had said about her, she came up with the idea to get the girl to spike the victim’s drink with one of the tablets, which were found to contain bromazepam, a poison.

DPP Kwang said the consumption of bromazepam can lead to impaired memory, impaired visual information processing and sensory data, and impaired psycho-motor performance, among other things.

“While bromazepam is not known to cause death, there are a host of adverse reactions in the usual therapeutic doses,” she added.

A few days after she came up with the idea, the stepmother crushed a tablet and put it in a plastic packet then instructed the girl to spike the victim’s drink at an opportune time.

She also suggested that the girl could kill her own mother once she fell unconscious by either turning her to lie face-down so that she would not be able to breathe, or by suffocating her with a pillow.

That same month, the victim found the packet of powder in the girl’s bag. When she questioned her daughter, the girl denied knowing what the powder was.

On Jan 25, 2020, at around 5am, the girl woke up and told her mother that she was thirsty.

The victim poured a cup of water for her daughter, who then put some of the powder into the cup and asked her mother to drink it.

When the victim saw some foam in the water, she emptied it, thinking that the girl might have spat into the cup. The girl then prepared another cup of water, poured more of the powder into it and asked her mother to drink it.

The victim became suspicious when she saw a thin layer of powder at the bottom of the cup. She did not drink it as she realised the powder in the cup had come from the packet of powdered substance she saw in her daughter’s bag.

When the victim confronted her daughter about it, she admitted that her stepmother had instigated her to spike her drink. The victim then called the police.

Before meting out the sentence, District Judge Lim Wee Ming said the woman’s instigation of the child to commit this offence against her own mother is aggravating.

“The accused was such a strong influence over the child that the child made not one, but two attempts to poison the victim by spiking her water,” he added.

The woman asked for her sentence to be deferred to Jan 26 as she needs time to finalise caregiving arrangements for her own child and to spend time with her family during Chinese New Year.

Those convicted of causing hurt by means of poison may be jailed for up to 10 years, fined or caned.

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