SINGAPORE: A 27-year-old woman was sentenced to one-and-a-half years' jail on Tuesday (Aug 18) for throwing her newborn son down a rubbish chute from the third floor of a housing block, intending to kill him.
Her lawyer told the court that the new mother did not know she was pregnant and was "unprepared for the situation". She was later diagnosed with postpartum depression, court documents said.
The woman cannot be named due to a gag order imposed by the court to protect the identity of the boy, who fractured his clavicle and is now with foster parents.
The woman pleaded guilty to one charge of attempted culpable homicide by throwing her son down the rubbish chute with the intention of causing death.
The court heard that she held two part-time jobs as a waitress and a cleaner at the time of the offence.
In the early hours of Jan 7 this year, she was at home in her Bedok North flat with her brother when she began to experience discomfort in her abdomen.
She had not had her period for many months and wondered occasionally if she could be pregnant, but chose "not to dwell on it", the court was told. When she went to the toilet that morning, she gave birth to the victim and was shocked after the delivery.
She carried the newborn child out of the toilet and to the kitchen, where she placed him in a plastic bag and tied it up.
She realised that the victim was moving inside the bag but "wanted to get rid of him quickly", the court heard. She threw the bag containing her son down the third-floor unit's rubbish chute, intending to cause death.
After this, she cleaned up the blood in the house, took a shower and went to sleep. She did not tell anyone about what she had done, telling her friend that she had a miscarriage.
READ: Mother accused of abandoning baby in rubbish chute has been remanded for 3 months, judge urges haste
BABY FOUND BY CLEANERS
At about 8.30am that morning, cleaners employed by the Aljunied-Hougang Town Council began their rounds clearing garbage from the rubbish chutes along Bedok North.
Cleaners Patwari Shamin and Kamal Mostafa were on their rounds when Mr Shamin heard the sound of a baby crying softly as he retrieved a rubbish bin from the block and closed the chute door.
He asked Mr Mostafa if he had heard anything, and Mr Shamin went closer to the bin that had been loaded onto the motorised cart and heard the cries again, a little louder this time.
He moved aside a newspaper at the top of the rubbish and saw the baby in the white plastic bag, which had blood on it and was tied in a dead knot.
The two cleaners immediately stopped what they were doing and called their supervisor. Town council property officers went to the scene, with one of them tearing open the bag to see the newborn boy covered with blood crying inside, with no clothes or towel on him.
The two cleaners found a shirt, a shawl and other clothing to wrap the boy with and the police and ambulance soon arrived to take him to hospital.
The police went to the accused's home the next day and asked her and her family if they knew anything about a baby who was thrown into the rubbish chute.
The accused denied knowing anything, but eventually confessed to her friend that she had thrown the baby down the chute. Her friend advised her to surrender herself to the police, and she went to the station on Feb 13.
The woman was diagnosed to be suffering from postpartum depression, but no direct contributory link was found between her condition and the offence, as the depression started only after the offence.
A further report by the Institute of Mental Health clarified that the woman was not suffering a major mental illness at the time of the offence. The woman had previously been sent to a drug rehabilitation centre for consuming methamphetamine.
PROSECUTOR PUSHED FOR TWO YEARS' JAIL
Deputy Public Prosecutor Yan Jiakang asked for at least two years' jail, saying that the woman was cognisant enough to place the baby in the plastic bag and dispose of it before removing evidence by cleaning away the blood.
The victim was extremely vulnerable, and throwing him in the chute was unsanitary and unhygienic, with a risk of infection and crushing by falling rubbish, she said.
The bag was tied in a dead knot and the cleaners had to tear it open, with a risk of suffocation if he had not been discovered in time.
The woman also did not come clean when approached by police, surrendering only a day before she was to take a DNA test.
Defence lawyer Arias Lim, who took the case on pro bono, tried asking for probation instead, saying this was not an ordinary case.
She said her client did not know she was pregnant and was "in a state of shock" when she went to the toilet, thinking she had a stomach ache, only to see a baby falling out.
In that single moment, she went from a young unmarried woman to being a mother, said Ms Lim.
The judge asked if she expected the court to believe that the accused did not know she was pregnant, even when the hospital said the boy weighed 2.5kg, was a full-term baby and was crying.
"Those are my instructions and I wish to highlight that there were no other signs of pregnancy," said Ms Lim, adding that the woman's family members were unaware that she was pregnant.
"In that moment, she acted blindly."
The lawyer said her client was unprepared for the situation, pointing to how the accused had cut the baby's umbilical cord with kitchen scissors and without proper precautions.
"Her parents were not home and she had no one to turn to. It was undoubtedly a mistake but it does not preclude the fact that she is not a cold-hearted monster but a scared woman," said Ms Lim.
She added that the tying of the bag was "not a vicious act" but an "automatic act to deal with anything she wants to throw away".
The defence lawyer said that her client has been in communication with the Ministry of Social and Family Development to try and get her baby back and had asked to see her son, but this could not be arranged while she was remanded.
District Judge Salina Ishak said the charge was a serious offence, adding that the accused was 26 years old at the time and that rehabilitation did not displace deterrence in this case.
A probation order was not appropriate, said the judge, who noted the aggravating factors such as the victim's extreme vulnerability and the dangerous and unsanitary environment he was thrown into.
It was fortunate that the victim did not suffer serious or permanent injuries, she said.
Court documents made no mention of the father of the child.
For attempted culpable homicide, the woman could have been jailed for up to seven years and fined.