SINGAPORE: A woman was sentenced to seven years' jail on Monday (Nov 4) after she threw one of her children down to the ground, fracturing her skull and killing her.
The 30-year-old mother of six, who had earlier lost two children to illness, had pleaded guilty to one charge of culpable homicide not amounting to murder.
The charge was reduced from murder after it emerged that the woman had been suffering from major depressive disorder.
The identities of all involved cannot be revealed due to gag orders issued by the court.
The incident occurred on Apr 9 last year at the two-room flat the woman shared with her delivery driver husband and two of their children, the court heard.
Court documents did not state where her other two children lived.
She had just given the victim, the fifth of her six children, a bath in the kitchen washroom and was preparing to dress her in a bedroom when the child defecated on a towel on the bed.
As the angry mother was carrying her back to the washroom, faeces fell onto the bedroom and kitchen floors.
She scolded her daughter as she washed her again and the two-year-old girl began to cry, said the prosecution. She then instructed the girl to follow her to the bedroom but the latter did not heed her. This made the mother angrier, court documents said.
TODDLER WAS FORCEFULLY THROWN DOWN TWICE
The mother then pulled her daughter's hands and dragged her into the bedroom before lifting the girl up by her armpits and forcefully throwing her down on the floor.
The girl landed head first and cried louder than before.
Her mother then told her to clean up her toys in the living room. The girl walked slowly to the living room, appearing to be in pain.
As she was tidying her child's mattress, the mother noticed her daughter had stopped packing up her toys and was standing still, crying.
The woman then lifted her child again to above her shoulders and threw her on the floor with all her might.
The child landed on her back and her head hit the floor before she fell silent.
The woman said she noticed that the impact was "very hard" but was still furious so she kicked the girl forcefully on her side.
When she realised that her daughter was no longer moving, the woman grew alarmed and began to administer cardiopulmonary resuscitation on the girl.
She lied to her husband when he called on the phone, saying that their daughter was having a fit.
When her husband came home and saw that their daughter was "not looking good", he asked his wife to take the girl to the hospital.
As she did so, she noticed in the Grab car that the child was bleeding from her mouth, said Deputy Public Prosecutors Zhou Yihong and Han Ming Kuang.
HOSPITAL NOTIFIED POLICE, GIRL DIED ABOUT A WEEK LATER
KK Women's and Children's Hospital sent a fax message to the police about the case and police interviewed the girl's mother.
She told the authorities that she had woken up from her nap to find her child having a fit, claiming that the girl had fallen out of her hold and hit her back and head.
The child was found to have suffered skull fractures and bruising in the areas around her stomach, pancreas and spleen.
Her mother eventually admitted that she had thrown her daughter twice on the floor.
The girl was declared brain-dead on Apr 14 and died three days later on Apr 17, more than a week after the incident.
An autopsy certified her cause of death as head injury, with the forensic pathologist noting extensive fractures of the skull, consistent with blunt force trauma, that were enough to cause death.
HER MENTAL RESPONSIBILITY WAS IMPAIRED BY MAJOR DEPRESSIVE DISORDER
A psychiatric report from the Institute of Mental Health (IMH) found that the woman had major depressive disorder at the time of the incident, which substantially impaired her mental responsibility for her acts.
The doctor said the disorder had its onset before the death of one of the woman's children in February 2018, with the depressive symptoms persisting thereafter.
The prosecution had pushed for seven years' jail, while defence lawyer Anand Nalachandran urged the court to give five years' jail instead.
The prosecutors said the woman had vented her anger against the victim in such a violent way as to cause her death, calling her acts "repugnant and inexcusable".
They added that the girl was "a mere toddler when her life was suddenly and callously taken away by the accused, whose very job was to care for and protect her".
"No doubt, the accused's major depressive disorder contributed to her causing D1’s death by substantially impairing her mental responsibility," said the prosecution.
"However, there is no evidence that she lacked the capacity to comprehend her actions or to appreciate the wrongfulness of her conduct."
They added that "nothing justifies the use of gratuitous violence against a young child".
SHE HAD LOST TWO CHILDREN TO ILLNESS, SUFFERED EMOTIONAL COLLAPSE
The defence said there was no planning and premeditation in this case, with an unexpected event triggering "an emotional collapse that led to a spontaneous impulse".
Just two months before the incident, the woman had borne a premature child who died two days after being discharged from hospital. Since then, she had been crying uncontrollably and dwelling on the past.
In 2011, she lost a four-month-old child to a viral infection. The woman "spiralled and plummeted" after this, suffering recurring insomnia, said the lawyer.
The woman developed major depressive disorder before February 2018 and suffered suicidal thoughts, but was not diagnosed until after the offence. Her medical history shows she may have suffered the condition since as early as 2007, when she was taken to hospital for slitting her wrists. In 2009, she was treated in IMH after attempting suicide.
On the day of the incident, she was "overwhelmed" and her daughter defecating on the towel was "the proverbial final straw that broke the camel's back and led our client to do what she so deeply regrets".
"Plagued with undiagnosed major depressive disorder, insomnia and illness, our client was worn down carrying the weight of the family on her shoulders and she finally buckled to the unrelenting pressures of her life," said the lawyer.
"She has no excuse - but her mind was compromised and her mental responsibility was substantially impaired."
He added that the woman had "desperately tried to resuscitate" the toddler and taken her to hospital. When she realised the girl had died, "she held her daughter tightly in her arms and apologised repeatedly, crying and saying that she did not intend for this to happen".
She has since been diagnosed with the disorder and takes medication daily to manage her illness, seeing a psychiatrist regularly.
Judicial Commissioner Vincent Hoong said the case "is deeply unfortunate" and recognised that the mother was in a difficult situation, and that "some punishment must already be felt on her part".
While he noted that the woman's disorder substantially impaired her mental responsibility, he maintained that rehabilitation did not override deterrence and retribution, the dominant considerations in this case.
For culpable homicide not amounting to murder, the woman could have been jailed for life, or up to 20 years and fined. She cannot be caned as she is a woman.