SINGAPORE: A 28-year-old man went on trial on Tuesday (Feb 2) for murdering his four-year-old stepdaughter by beating her up after she urinated outside the toilet bowl.
Muhammad Salihin Ismail is accused of killing the girl via two incidents of assault on Sep 1, 2018, where he hit her multiple times in the abdomen and kicked her stomach forcefully while she lay on the floor.
The girl suffered extensive intra-abdominal bleeding that caused her death a day later, charge sheets said.
The court heard that Salihin married the victim's mother, Syabilla Syamien Riyadi, in August 2016 when the victim was two years old. She was fathered by Syabilla's previous partner, and Syabilla - now 24 years old - is currently in prison for reasons not identified in open court.
The victim called Salihin "papa" and regarded him as her father, said Deputy Public Prosecutors Senthilkumaran Sabapathy and Lim Yu Hui.
A few months after Salihin married the victim's mother, she gave birth to twin boys who Salihin fathered. The family of five lived together in a flat, and the couple began toilet-training the victim to prepare her for school in late September 2018.
On Sep 1, 2018, Syabilla left for work in the morning, leaving Salihin home with the victim and the twins.
According to the prosecution's case, Salihin saw a puddle of urine outside the toilet at about 10am and realised that the victim had urinated there. Angered, he called the girl over and placed her on the toilet bowl, where he allegedly hit her stomach a few times with his fist.
Later that day, the girl indicated to Salihin that she wanted to go to the toilet. Salihin told her to go in on her own, and she did so. When she came out, Salihin went in and saw that she had urinated on the floor in front of the toilet bowl.
He allegedly grew angry and questioned the girl about the urine, before pushing her to the ground. While she was there, Salihin allegedly kicked her stomach at least twice.
The girl began crying but he purportedly placed her on the toilet bowl before hitting her in the stomach a few times with his fist, the prosecutors charged.
That night, Syabilla returned home from work with dinner, but her daughter said her stomach felt painful after eating a few mouthfuls of rice. When she vomited on the sofa, Salihin and Syabilla applied ointment on her stomach.
Between 1am and 8am on Sep 2, 2018, the victim continued to vomit periodically. Salihin took her to the toilet at around 8am where she tried to throw up, but noticed that she had difficulty doing so.
He used his index finger to "ease her vomit", said court documents. The girl threw up and fainted. Salihin then carried her out of the toilet and told Syabilla to call for an ambulance.
When paramedics arrived at 9.17am, they found that the girl did not have a pulse and was not breathing. Two paramedics from Hope Ambulance who attended to the scene were the first to testify on Tuesday, saying that the girl's hands and legs were stiff.
Her mother was crying and unable to answer any questions, said one paramedic. His colleague added that he later noticed bruising on the child's face.
The child was taken to hospital and pronounced dead at 10.12am that day.
The hospital reported her death to the police and Salihin was arrested the next day after initial investigations.
The accused admitted in a statement to the police on Sep 3, 2018 that he intentionally targeted the girl’s stomach because he wanted to “teach her a lesson” for having “so much problem peeing or passing motion”.
An autopsy found that the girl had died from blood within the peritoneal cavity due to blunt-force trauma of the abdomen. The pathology of trauma was consistent with the infliction of "non-accidental injuries on a young child", prosecutors said.
The prosecution's psychiatrist examined Salihin and found that he does not suffer from any mental disorder or illness, but the doctor for the defence team found that he was suffering from an intermittent explosive disorder at the time.
The trial continues on Wednesday with Syabilla expected to take the stand. The prosecution will lead evidence from 58 witnesses to prove the charge. If convicted of murder, Salihin may be sentenced either to death, or life imprisonment with caning.
He 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.
Salihin is defended by lawyers Syazana Yahya and Eugene Thuraisingam.