SINGAPORE: A nanny hired to care for two infants each under a year old is accused of poisoning them with drugs including sleeping pills, antihistamines and medication for anxiety.
Sa'adiah Jamari, 38, claimed trial on Tuesday (Feb 18) to two counts of administering poisons to a five-month-old baby and an 11-month-old child in 2016.
The court heard that Sa'adiah had been a registered nurse since 2002 and had also listed freelance nursing services online.
The mother of the younger victim took the stand on Tuesday and described how she felt her daughter was drowsy and cranky every time she picked her up from Sa'adiah's home.
She had posted on Facebook that she urgently needed a Muslim babysitter for her two daughters – a five-year-old girl and the five-month-old victim.
The mother, who cannot be named in order to protect the victim's identity, hired Sa'adiah after the latter commented on her post.
She said she would provide clothes and milk and told Sa'adiah to feed the infant milk if she cried.
The first time Sa'adiah babysat the two girls in early November 2016, the mother noticed that her younger daughter was "cranky" and "tossing around in bed".
The infant was not her usual self, said the mother, adding that her daughter would usually respond to smiles with actions such as finger-grabbing.
MOTHER NOTICED A PATTERN
As time went by, the mother noticed a pattern of her younger child being very sleepy whenever she picked her up from Sa'adiah's home.
"The first few times (she was) like drowsy, so I thought she just woke up from her nap," said the mother. "So I didn't really think about it much. But subsequently, when I send her, she seemed to be more sleepy. Her eyes would be a bit swollen, the top part of her eyelids ... like drooping down."
She said the baby was cranky as if she wanted to sleep and would throw the bottle aside when fed milk.
When spoken to, the baby seemed to be struggling to hear where the voice came from, testified the mother.
After three or four such occasions, the mother took her baby to KK Women's and Children's Hospital for a check up in late November 2016.
A healthcare professional said the baby seemed "fine", but the mother insisted a blood test was done. The results were normal.
"I felt upset," said the mother, who grew emotional on the stand. "It was my instincts against a medical examination ... what's happening to her isn't being acknowledged ... But I took it in good faith."
She said she had no evidence that anything harmful was being done to her daughter. She was in a situation where she had no one to help her care for her daughter, so she continued sending her to Sa'adiah.
BABY'S GRANDMOTHER EXPRESSES ALARM
This went on until Dec 9, 2016, when the mother picked her baby up in the evening.
The girl seemed "very, very drowsy" and was unable to open her eyes, which had swollen lids. She said the sleepiness appeared to be "different", as her eyes were reddish and she did not seem to have control of her hands.
"First thing my mother said when she saw me was, 'what happened to her'," the court was told.
The child's grandmother was very shocked and said it looked like there was something wrong with the infant.
The mother said she had previously taken her daughter to a hospital, but test results were normal.
The child's grandmother started crying in the car and urged her husband to go to the hospital. They then drove to Parkway East Hospital, where the baby was admitted.
"I told the doctor she seemed very drowsy, as if she's been drugged. Her head was tilting backwards – like no strength," said the mother.
The doctor did some tests on the child, and one of them found that her glucose levels were very low.
"When admitted, I recalled nurses in the ward holding her, trying to feed her milk with a spoon because she can't even suck the milk bottle. You had to force feed her," said the mother.
The infant was warded for about five days. The mother stopped sending her daughters to Sa'adiah.
NANNY ACCUSED OF FEEDING FIRST VICTIM 10 DIFFERENT DRUGS
In December 2016, the mother received the toxicology report from the doctor, who explained the terms to her.
She then made a police report.
According to the charge sheets, Sa'adiah gave the five-month-old child 10 different drugs including: Alprazolam, also known as Xanax, meant for anxiety; Orphenadrine, a muscle relaxant; Zolpidem, to aid sleep; Oxazepam, for anxiety and acute alcohol withdrawal; and diazepam, a benzodiazepine used to treat anxiety disorders, alcohol withdrawal or muscle spasms.
Sometime after filing the police report in late December that year, the mother of the first victim saw a viral Facebook post about a babysitter who was suspected to have drugged children.
The mother reached out to another woman who wrote in the comments that her daughter had been drugged, saying that she faced the same situation.
This woman is the mother of the second victim - an 11-month-old baby who was allegedly drugged on Dec 25, 2016 and Dec 26, 2016.
The first victim is now her normal self and is attending childcare, her mother told the court.
The trial continues on Wednesday. Sa'adiah is defended by lawyers Chua Eng Hui and Luo Ling Ling from RHTLaw Asia, who asked for a gag order on their client's name.
District Judge John Ng said there was no reason for it to be redacted.
If found guilty of administering poison with the intent to cause hurt, Sa'adiah can be jailed for up to 10 years and fined. She cannot be caned as she is a woman.