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Singapore

15-year-old boy sentenced to detention after stabbing father with fruit knife, killing him

SINGAPORE: A 15-year-old boy admitted on Monday (Jan 24) to killing his father after stabbing him in the neck with a fruit knife in December 2020.

The boy was sentenced to five years’ detention after pleading guilty to one charge of culpable homicide. Under the Children and Young Persons Act, the boy and his family members cannot be named.

The court heard that the boy was diagnosed with autism spectrum disorder as a toddler, and was enrolled in a special needs school in Primary 1. He was transferred to a mainstream school shortly after, as he was deemed to be "sufficiently high functioning", according to court documents. 

In 2018, he was diagnosed with Internet gaming disorder after he was referred to the National Addictions Management Service at the Institute of Mental Health over concerns about the amount of time he spent on computer games.

The court heard the teen had a "largely cordial" relationship with his brother and mother, but had a "difficult relationship" with his father, who he thought was "highly controlling".

The victim "closely monitored" his son, limiting the teenager's access to his mobile phone and to computer games, and also set regular tasks and assignments. These included laundry duties, homework and doing assessment books, the court heard. 

When the teenager occasionally failed to comply with his father's instructions, his father would hit him and swear at him.

He did not suffer any physical injuries, but started harbouring thoughts of killing his father in June 2020, when his father disallowed him from playing computer games for a month.

STABBED HIS FATHER IN THE NECK

On Dec 11, 2020, the teenager and his younger brother were alone at their home with their father. Their mother had gone to work.

The teen’s father was doing laundry and got agitated when he could not find the detergent scoop, and he asked the teenager whether he had hidden it. The boy denied doing so.

Although he was angry with being questioned, the teenager helped with the laundry by scooping the detergent with his hands, the court heard.

Following the encounter, the teen began to have thoughts of killing his father “so that he would be free of the deceased”, the court heard.

He went into the kitchen and tried to hide a knife in his pocket, but found that it was too big and difficult to hide. He took a fruit knife instead – with a blade measuring about 9.5cm – and hid it in his pocket, returning to his room.

When he heard his father asking his younger brother to wash some clothes, he left his room and went to the kitchen and saw the two of them doing laundry.

The teen got “even angrier” when he heard his father telling his younger brother that the teen had thrown the detergent scoop away, the court heard.

“He was aggrieved that he was falsely accused of something that he had not done,” the court heard.

The victim saw the teenager in the kitchen and accused him again over the missing detergent scoop, according to court documents. The boy denied throwing away the scoop, and returned to his room.

While in his room, the teen thought about how his father was too strict and limited his leisure time.

At about 10.10am, the teenager returned to the kitchen where he saw his father crouched at the laundry area beside his brother.

He then stabbed his father once on the left side of his neck “with the intention of causing the death of the deceased”, according to court documents. The teenager put the knife in the kitchen sink and ran back to his room.

His father managed to walk to the living room and sat on a chair, while his younger son called for an ambulance and called his mother.

The teen came out of his room and "apologised profusely" to his father and younger brother, and helped his brother to stop the bleeding by applying pressure to his father's neck wound with a towel.

However, his father fell unconscious and collapsed to the floor. Paramedics and police officers arrived at 10.21am and attempted to resuscitate the man, but they were unsuccessful.

He was taken to Changi General Hospital and pronounced dead at about 11am.

The teenager admitted to police officers at the flat that he had stabbed his father, and he was arrested at about 12.10pm.

ASSESSMENT OF TEEN'S MENTAL STATE

Dr Ong Say How of the Institute of Mental Health conducted an assessment of the teenager's mental state following his arrest.

The boy was diagnosed with autism spectrum disorder and is considered to be high functioning as he was able to complete his primary school education in a mainstream school, according to court documents. He was also found to exhibit obsessive-compulsive traits.

Dr Ong said the teenager's autism spectrum disorder and obsessive-compulsive traits did not have a "causal or contributory link to the offence", and that he had "sufficient maturity" to understand and judge the nature and consequences of his conduct when committing the offence.

He also assessed that the teen’s risk of violent reoffending is “low”.

Deputy Public Prosecutor Lim Shin Hui asked for the teen to be detained for five to seven years. She said that the authorities intend to let the teen, who turns 16 in February, continue to stay at the boys’ home. He is on track to take his O-Levels this year.

Should he progress to the next stage of his education, he will be transferred to a prison where he will have access to facilities, including the necessary academic support, she added.

Mr Shashi Nathan, who represented the teen, asked for him to be detained for three to five years. The teenager has responded and adapted well in the boys’ home, he said.

He added that the teenager’s mother and brother visit him once a week, and that the siblings now have a close bond.

Describing him as a “young smart boy”, Mr Nathan said that the teenager will be able to contribute to society in the future. He said that while the boy took to gaming to escape into fantasy, reality has hit.

“Reality is a constant daily reminder that he destroyed his family. He has to live with the guilt of losing his father for the rest of his life,” he said.

Justice Aedit Abdullah told the teenager that he hopes that he will reflect on what happened and added that while the next few years will be “difficult”, there will be support for him.

He added that he hopes that the teen will come out and contribute to his family and society.

Source: CNA/ja(mi)
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