SINGAPORE: A man who used to stay over on the weekends at his long-time friend's house, and was so trusted by the family that they allowed him to sleep in the same room as their two young daughters, admitted on Thursday (Jan 10) to sexually assaulting them.
The man forced his friend's two daughters, who were as young as nine when they were first assaulted, to perform sexual acts on him between January 2011 and May 2015.
The man, who is now 58, cannot be named to protect the identity of the girls.
The court heard that some of the sexual assaults took place in a car at a multi-storey car park, or in the bedroom he was allowed to share with the girls.
His actions were exposed only when the older sister, who is now 17, displayed suicidal tendencies in 2017 and told a child protection officer what he had done to her.
The police uncovered the offences he had committed against the younger sister, now 15, during the course of their investigations.
ACCUSED WAS LONG-TIME FRIEND OF VICTIMS' FATHER
The court heard that the man was a close friend of the girls' father. They had known each other for about 20 years and often met to talk about their lives and religion.
The girls' father often asked the man for financial help, and also got him to help look after his family when he was remanded in prison himself.
The man grew close to the girls and their family, and after his divorce in 2011, began staying over at their home on the weekends.
The girls liked the man, as he showered them with attention and bought them gifts. In particular, he listened to the older sister's problems and gave her advice, which made her feel that he treated her even better than her own parents.
On the weekends, the man would take the entire family out and treat the girls to their favourite food.
However, things took an ugly turn when he began abusing them in 2011.
During one of his sleepovers, the man - whose mattress was in between the two girls - asked the older sister to kiss him on the lips after the younger girl had slept.
Thinking it was a normal way of showing affection, the nine-year-old girl did so. However, the man then asked her to perform other sex acts on him.
She did not understand the nature of the sex acts, but complied, before going to bed.
OLDER GIRL TOLD PARENTS WHAT HAPPENED
The offences continued, and the girl told her parents about the assaults after a similar attack in 2015.
"Her parents, however, did not act on the information as they did not understand her," Deputy Public Prosecutor Chew Xin Ying told the court.
The man had also turned his attention to the younger sister. In 2013, he asked the child, who was 10 that year, to follow him to park his car after a family outing.
She agreed and sat in the front passenger seat as he drove his vehicle to the top floor of the car park. There, he hugged and kissed the girl, before molesting her.
He then asked her to perform a sexual act on him and warned her not to tell anyone about what had happened, or he would no longer be able to visit her family.
The girl did not tell anyone as she wanted the man to continue spending time with her and her family.
It was only in 2015 when the older girl attended a science class in Secondary 2 that she realised what the man had done to her was wrong.
She told her boyfriend, who asked her to report it to the police. Despite this, she did not do so as she was afraid of what would happen to the man.
It was only in 2017, after she was placed in Pertapis Centre for Women & Girls for displaying suicidal tendencies, that she revealed to a child protection officer that she had been sexually abused.
ACCUSED MARRED THE GIRLS' CHILDHOOD: PROSECUTION
The man pleaded guilty on Thursday to three charges of aggravated sexual assault by penetration, with another seven charges taken into consideration.
The prosecution asked for a sentence of 22 years' jail to be imposed, with an additional year in lieu of caning as he is over the age of 50.
Deputy Public Prosecutor Chew Xin Ying said the man abused his position of trust and responsibility.
"The victims' parents trusted him enough to let him spend time, alone and unsupervised, with their young daughters," she said. "The accused exploited this trust by preying on the victims' accessibility and pliability, inflicting his depravity upon innocent, naive girls to fulfil his lust."
She added that he deliberately isolated the girls to sexually abuse them, marring the vulnerable girls' childhood.
When asked by Judicial Commissioner Pang Khang Chau if he had anything to say, the man said he was very sorry for what he had done.
"I really ... I can't say more than that," he said. "I ask for leniency. Not more than 18 years' (jail), because my health is not very good your honour."
He said he had a "knee problem" and that he was waiting for a diagnosis on a problem with his head, but did not elaborate on the specific condition.
"I'm very sorry to the family and to the court. It's not that I want to do (this), sir," he said.
The judge adjourned the matter for the prosecution to look into the claim by the man that something "was growing" in his head.