Boy molestation trial: Witness says she saw ex-primary school teacher touching boy in public
SINGAPORE: A secondary school teacher who saw a man kissing a 12-year-old boy at a McDonald's outlet found the behaviour inappropriate and continued to monitor them.
Ms Renuga Konasegaran told a court on Thursday (Aug 27) what she saw, in a trial against the 35-year-old man, who was then a primary school teacher.
Ms Renuga later took a photo of the pair and flagged the incident to the boy's school.
The accused, the victim and the school cannot be named due to gag orders protecting the identity of the boy, who is now 16.
The accused is on trial for two counts of molestation and a third charge of attempted molestation. He is accused of using criminal force on the victim by tapping his private parts over his shorts on Jun 15, 2017, before allegedly inserting his hands into the boy's shorts and molesting him.
He is accused of trying to molest the boy again early the next day. He also faces two charges that have been stood down or set aside for the trial - for showing the boy pornography and voluntarily causing hurt to him.
On Thursday, Ms Renuga told the court that she had gone to a McDonald's outlet at the Woodlands Civic Centre on Jun 2, 2017 to get food for her sister when she spotted the accused and the victim.
WITNESS APPROACHED THE BOY
She saw the man holding hands with the boy, and did not think it was "abnormal" at first, but later saw the man kiss the boy on his cheek, neck and near his ears.
"I felt highly uncomfortable with this gesture, because I thought it was inappropriate for an older man to be kissing a younger boy this way," she said.
She said she also wondered how they were related, as they appeared to be of different races and the boy "seemed okay" with what was happening.
Ms Renuga said she then saw the man move his hand to hold the boy by the hip before sliding his hand down to his buttocks.
She said the man then placed his palm near the boy's crotch, however, she could not see very clearly from where she was standing.
She later spoke to the boy, pretending that he reminded her of a neighbour's son, and asked which school he was from.
When she asked him who the man was, he said it was his father, which later turned out to be false.
The accused intervened and left with the boy. Ms Renuga followed them with a friend but lost sight of them.
Sensing something amiss, Ms Renuga contacted a friend who worked at the boy's school, and told her what happened. She also showed her two photos she had taken of the boy with the accused.
The school later asked for a formal report on the matter and Ms Renuga complied.
When asked by the prosecutor how she was able to remember this incident even though it happened three years ago, Ms Renuga said the incident was close to her heart as she had told her family about what happened once she got home.
"After two weeks, I received a call to go and give my statement, and (found) that something bigger was surfacing after my hunch," she said.
IT NEVER HAPPENED: DEFENCE
The man's lawyer, Mr Kalaithasan Karuppaya of Regent Law, asked Ms Renuga why she had taken a photo of the pair.
She said they were holding hands with interlocked fingers and felt "this might lead to something", so she took a photo to help identify the boy if he needed help.
Mr Kalaithasan suggested that an adult man could adopt a boy of a different race and hold his hands, and Ms Renuga agreed, but insisted that she felt something was wrong.
"There was no reason for me to take a photograph," she said. "I was observing them and I didn't feel good about it, and that's why I took that photo."
She also said she felt the cheek and neck are "pretty intimate areas", which was why she felt it was not a father kissing a son.
Mr Kalaithasan put it to her that his client did not kiss the boy on his neck, ears or cheek.
"I disagree. This happened," maintained Ms Renuga.
The trial will continue at a later date, with six more witnesses left for the prosecution. The defence intends to call only the accused to the stand.
The Ministry of Education previously said that the accused was suspended from service since July 2017 and is no longer teaching in any school.
If convicted of outraging the boy's modesty, the man can be jailed for up to five years, fined, caned, or given any combination of these penalties.