SINGAPORE: On Sep 22 last year, police broke into a flat at Banda Street in Chinatown after a neighbour complained that the flat smelled “like rotten meat”.
Officers found the rotting, maggot-infested body of a 20-year-old woman clad in a gown and headscarf, her body blackened and eyeballs missing.
She had been lying dead in her bed since Sep 15, the night her boyfriend of one month beat her for two hours for disobeying him, Deputy Public Prosecutors Christina Koh and Dwayne Lum said.
The boyfriend, 28-year-old Zulkifri Said, then fled Singapore with his mother. They were arrested on Sep 23 when they returned to the country.
Zulkifri pleaded guilty to five charges on Wednesday (Aug 23), including two for assault and one, under the Coroners Act, for failing to report the death.
He was sentenced to a jail term of two years and three months. The maximum sentence for assault is two years.
Had the prosecution proceeded with more severe charges, District Judge Chay Yuen Fatt said Zulkifri's sentence could have been higher. He noted, however, that the prosecution was likely constrained by evidence.
The body was so badly decomposed that the victim's cause of death could not be ascertained, or directly attributed to Zulkifri.
BEATING LASTED NEARLY TWO HOURS, COURT HEARD
The couple had met and started dating in August 2016, and that month, the victim moved in with Zulkifri and his mother.
The relationship turned sour not long after and when Zulkifri kicked his girlfriend out on Sep 15, she refused to leave.
That night, Zulkifri pummeled her, whipped her with a belt and hit her with clothes hangers, in an assault that lasted nearly two hours.
He admitted that his girlfriend did not retaliate or attempt to defend herself, although she had started to bruise and bleed.
Following the beating, the victim started to shiver uncontrollably and collapsed onto the floor.
When Zulkifri carried her onto the bed a few minutes later, he noticed that her body was stiff, she seemed to have trouble breathing and that “her right eye was looking straight, but her left eye was looking sideways,” the court heard. She also started foaming at the mouth.
Instead of calling for an ambulance, Zulkifri, afraid that he would be questioned about his girlfriend’s battered body, decided to “dress (her) up” to hide the bruises on her face and body.
His mother, 63-year-old Mariani Aboo Bakar, helped to put her in a gown and headscarf. Zulkifri also admitted he nearly put the victim on a wheelchair, intending to leave her at the void deck “for someone to find her”.
He decided against it in the end, and left his girlfriend in bed until she stopped breathing.
Zulkifri claimed he had used his asthma inhaler to “pump gas into her mouth”. He had also “pumped on her chest three times and blew air into her open mouth once” when he realised her breathing had become irregular.
After she died, he placed a prayer book on her chest before packing a bag and fleeing the scene with his mother and two cats.
They dropped the cats off at Mariani’s sister’s flat at Jurong before getting into a taxi at about 3.30am, which took them to Johor Baru.
They put up in a hostel in Larkin for a few days before they ran out of money on Sep 22. Mother and son then returned to Singapore in the early hours of Sep 23, by which time the victim’s body had been discovered.
They were arrested at the flat of Mariani’s sister that afternoon.
ZULKIFRI'S ACTIONS "SHOCKING, CHILLING": PROSECUTION
Prosecutors urged the court to sentence Zulkifri to at least 21 months’ jail for his “shocking” crime.
“His utter disregard for the personal safety and health of the deceased … is chilling,” they said. “Besides his fists, he used a belt and clothes hangers to (beat her).”
As the victim lay dying, convulsing and foaming at the mouth, Zulkifri opted to save his own skin, afraid that if he called an ambulance, he would get into trouble for beating her, the prosecutors noted.
He then fled the country, leaving the body to “decompose beyond recognition,” prosecutors told the court. The body was too decomposed for the cause of death to be determined.
“We don’t know if the deceased was actually beaten to death or if the beating led to a stroke or (a fatal) epileptic episode,” prosecutors said, but her last moments “must have been terrifying and painful”.
As for Zulkifri’s mother, she was given a stern warning in lieu of prosecution for not reporting the death.