SINGAPORE: A mother accused of throwing hot water on her five-year-old son until he died was scalded as a child by her own mother, a court heard on Wednesday (Nov 27).
Azlin Arujunah, 27, is on trial with her husband Ridzuan Mega Abdul Rahman for murder with common intention by pouring hot water on their son until he collapsed and later died in hospital in October 2016.
Defence psychiatrist Dr Jacob Rajesh told the court that Azlin had “learnt that way of punishment when she was young”.
“Physical abuse as a child is definitely a traumatic event. When children are physically abused, when they grow up, they can also abuse their own offspring as well,” said Dr Rajesh, adding that this was “probably a factor” in Azlin's methods of punishment.
When asked why Azlin had presented varying accounts of the abuse in her statements to the police and psychiatrists, Dr Rajesh said she had taken on her husband's blame for some of the offences.
He added that Azlin had given statements that were “causing detriment” to her case because she “wanted one person to get a lighter sentence” so that one of them could be released from prison earlier to “go back and look after the children”.
"STUCK IN AN ABUSIVE RELATIONSHIP"
The defence psychiatrist said Ridzuan had been abusive to his wife during their marriage, noting that she had previously been asked to file a personal protection order.
She was assaulted by Ridzuan when she was pregnant and slapped on the face, the court was told.
Adding that it is “not that easy” for abused partners to leave abusive relationships, Dr Rajesh added that Azlin was a “highly vulnerable young person” with “hardly any social support”.
“She was stuck in an abusive relationship with no light at the end of the tunnel. There was no alternative, where could she go?” the psychiatrist said.
He said Azlin had lost "any form of social support" when her grandmother died in March 2016. Her mother, whom she drew closer to after her grandmother's death, died a few months later in June that year.
From his interviews with Azlin, Dr Rajesh said Ridzuan was absent for three weeks in April 2016, leaving her to “tend to the children by herself with no money”.
Azlin also discovered on Facebook that he supposedly had an extramarital affair.
READ: Mother accused of scalding son to death was on drug withdrawal and grieving dead relatives, court hears
As a young mother looking after several children on her own, these stressors “played a cumulative role” in her adjustment disorder.
An adjustment disorder is a psychiatric disorder where a person has problems coping emotionally with certain external stressors.
When asked whether Azlin's adjustment disorder affected her ability to understand her actions, Dr Rajesh said she was aware that she was throwing hot water but “underestimated the seriousness of her actions”.
He said this was due to her underlying mental disorder, described as an adjustment disorder with depressed mood. It affected her self-control, the psychiatrist told the court.
Last week, prosecution psychiatrist Kenneth Koh said all of Azlin's anger and violence seemed to be "honed in onto the victim and she was able to restrain herself from attacking the other children, which therefore showed she had quite a large amount of restraint".
But Dr Rajesh said he disagreed with the prosecution’s assessment that there was no link between Azlin’s adjustment disorder and the offences.
“If you look at the timeline, the onset was in March 2016, and the AD (adjustment disorder) continued to be present all those months until the victim passed away,” said Dr Rajesh.
“It was not that the AD disappeared. It was there. When the acts of violence happened, with the context of the AD being present.”
The trial continues on Thursday, with the prosecution set to cross-examine Dr Rajesh.
If found guilty of murder, Azlin could be sentenced to death or life imprisonment. Her husband, if convicted, could get the death penalty or life imprisonment with caning.