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Singapore

Man acquitted of murder for kicking stomach of 4-year-old stepdaughter, who later died

Man acquitted of murder for kicking stomach of 4-year-old stepdaughter, who later died

Photo illustration of a child in distress. (Photo: Jeremy Long/CNA)

SINGAPORE: A man on trial for the murder of his four-year-old stepdaughter was on Tuesday (Mar 1) acquitted of the capital charge and convicted of voluntarily causing grievous hurt.

Muhammad Salihin Ismail, 29, was accused of killing the girl through two assaults on Sep 1, 2018, where he hit her multiple times in the abdomen and kicked her stomach forcefully while she lay on the floor.

She suffered extensive intra-abdominal bleeding which caused her death a day later.

Salihin married the victim's mother in August 2016 when the victim was two years old. The court previously heard that the couple was trying to toilet-train the girl in preparation for school.

Delivering his verdict, Justice Pang Khang Chau said there were two incidents that day where Salihin was very angry with the victim for urinating on the floor instead of in the toilet bowl.

In the first incident, Salihin reacted by carrying the victim to the toilet bowl and used his fist or knuckles to hold her in place on the seat, said the judge.

The prosecution had argued that while she was seated on the toilet bowl, Salihin hit her stomach a few times with his fist.

"In this regard, I accept the accused's evidence that there was no punching involved and that he was merely using his knuckles as an obstacle to prevent the victim from getting off the toilet seat," said the judge.

In the second incident later that afternoon, Salihin pushed the victim's shoulder, causing her to fall to the ground, where he kicked her stomach twice.

In the evening, she was complaining of stomach ache, lost her appetite and began vomiting. When she vomited on the sofa, Salihin and the victim's mother applied ointment on her stomach.

She continued to vomit periodically overnight, until she collapsed at about 8am the next day.

She was taken to hospital and pronounced dead at 10.12am. An autopsy found that the girl died from blood within the peritoneal cavity due to blunt force trauma of the abdomen.

SALIHIN'S INTENTION

Justice Pang said that for a murder charge to be made out, the prosecution had to prove four elements: The presence of a bodily injury, the nature of the injury, the injury was intentionally inflicted and the injury must be sufficient to cause death in the ordinary course of nature.

The judge found that the first, second and fourth elements were proven.

However, he was not satisfied that the third element of intention was proven in Salihin's actions during the second incident.

In Salihin's evidence, he said that he was reacting angrily when kicking the victim and "simply kicked what was in front of him, which happened to be the victim's abdomen", said the judge.

"The accused's action when applying ointment on the victim's abdomen after she complained of stomach ache corroborates that the accused did not know where his second kick landed," he continued.

"Thus, although the accused had kicked the victim intentionally, there was no intention to strike the part of the body where the injury was found and also no intention to strike with sufficient force to cause the kind of injury found to be present."

OTHER CONTRIBUTING EVENTS

Justice Pang said an issue that arose in this case was the extent to which three events that took place after Salihin kicked the victim contributed to her injury.

These events were: One of the victim's twin brothers, who was about two years old at the time, jumped on her stomach; the pressure caused by her vomiting action; and Salihin's attempt to perform cardiopulmonary resuscitation (CPR) on her after she collapsed.

To the extent that they contributed to her injury, the injuries observed in the victim could be a composite of these events and not just the blows inflicted by Salihin, said Justice Pang.

However, he was satisfied that given the medical evidence in its totality, the weight of the contributory effect of the three events was negligible.

Salihin will return to court for sentencing later this month, after the prosecution and defence asked for a three-week adjournment to make submissions.

He is represented by defence lawyers Eugene Thuraisingam and Suang Wijaya.

The penalty for voluntarily causing grievous hurt is a jail term of up to 10 years and a fine or caning.

Salihin faces another two charges that have been stood down or set aside for now - for placing a showerhead with flowing hot water on the victim's back in 2017, causing scald marks, and for slamming her head against the floor in early 2018.

Source: CNA/dv(ta)

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