SINGAPORE: The background of a father accused of killing his five-year-old son was revealed in court on Friday (Nov 15), with a picture painted of a child with an absent mother and who stayed in a boys' home.
Ridzuan Mega Abdul Rahman, 27, is on trial along with his wife Azlin Arujunah for murdering their son in 2016.
They stand accused of scalding their son with hot water until he collapsed and was belatedly taken to hospital, where he later died. The boy, who was previously living with a foster family, returned to his parents when he was about four.
Institute of Mental Health (IMH) psychologist Leung Hoi Ting took the stand for the prosecution on Friday afternoon.
She had interviewed Ridzuan in Changi Medical Complex about two months after the alleged murder, with questions about his childhood and his experience in a boys' home.
She also assessed his intellect and found that his overall functioning "does not meet the criteria of intellectual disability".
An intellectual assessment covers two components - a standardised intellectual assessment, and an assessment of the individual's adaptive functioning.
Even though his intelligence was "extremely low to low average", Ms Leung found that he was not intellectually disabled.
GRANDMA CALLED HIM "BODOH", UNCLES FOUND IT HARD TO UNDERSTAND HIM
Defence lawyer Eugene Thuraisingam said that Ridzuan's grandmother, who worked as a cleaner, would call him "bodoh" or "stupid" in Malay.
As a child, his uncles found it difficult to understand Ridzuan as he would talk quickly and his sentences did not flow, said Mr Thuraisingam.
However, when asked if this was a deficit in adaptive functioning, Ms Leung said it was not.
"If that's the case then quite a bit of people would be considered low in adaptive functioning," she said.
Mr Thuraisingam said it had to be looked at holistically and pointed out other features of Ridzuan's background.
Ridzuan did not do well in school, failing all his subjects as a primary school student. Despite that, Ridzuan would feel "happy" when he scored zeros for his tests and examinations, said Mr Thuraisingam.
"He avoided doing homework as he found them difficult, frequently played truant and would go out to play at the ... void decks, and expected his aunt to do his homework," said the lawyer.
If his aunt did not complete his work, Ridzuan would poke her hand with stationery out of anger.
To this, Ms Leung said that there could be many reasons that Ridzuan's did not do well in school. She also said she would have questioned what his underlying reasons were for feeling "happy" for scoring zero.
"I wouldn't be surprised if there are children who show off to friends saying ha, see, I didn't score any marks and my mother or grandmother doesn't care," she said.
She added that Ridzuan being "happy" for scoring zero was "quite consistent with how his family has been taking care of him", with his mother being absent and his grandma not present to supervise his homework.
DOES HE HAVE ADHD?
Ms Leung told the court that even though he demonstrated some restlessness during their three-hour session, sometimes lying on the table and sometimes smiling impatiently, he became "more settled" as the session progressed.
She did not suggest a further assessment to confirm if Ridzuan has attention deficit hyperactivity disorder (ADHD).
Another doctor had found that Ridzuan had ADHD, intermittent explosive disorder and hypnotic use disorder at the time of the offences, with a causal link between the disorders and his offending behaviour.
Mr Thuraisingam asserted that Ms Leung had not tried to contact Ridzuan's mother to corroborate his condition, if any, and did not "do everything you needed to do" to assess him.
Ridzuan's mother was in jail at the time, and his grandmother could not be contacted.
The defence lawyer added that Ridzuan's social circle became narrower as he grew older and he spent most of his time with his wife and family members.
He also said Ridzuan was less likely to manage utility bills as he relied on his grandma and wife to do them.
Ms Leung pointed out that Ridzuan said he could perform most of his daily living skills, but chose not to.
"He shared that he has the ability to perform most of his daily living skills, but he chose not to do so due to his personal preference and reliance on others," she said.
"I put it to you your report is inconclusive because you did not interview his mother, you are therefore unable to form a proper opinion on whether diagnostic criteria is satisfied," said the lawyer.
Ms Leung disagreed.
The trial resumes on Monday morning, with a consultant with IMH's Department of General and Forensic Psychiatry set to take the stand.
He had examined Ridzuan and found that while the latter appeared to have antisocial personality traits, he did not suffer from any mental disorder or intellectual disability.
If found guilty of murder with common intention, Ridzuan could be sentenced to death, or life imprisonment with caning. His wife would face the same penalties but cannot be caned.