Woman found dead near Bukit Batok Nature Park suffered from major depressive disorder before killing young son: Coroner
SINGAPORE: A woman who was found dead near Bukit Batok Nature Park in November last year had suffered from major depressive disorder before she fatally strangled her young son and killed herself.
Mdm Nami Ogata had also sought medical attention a few days before her death as she reportedly felt unable to cope with work and caring for her two children, according to coroner findings made available on Monday (Oct 19).
The 41-year-old Japanese national said in her suicide note that her prescribed medications were not helping and that she continued to feel anxious with poor sleep.
Her five-year-old son, Sotaro Ogata, was also a source of concern and stress for her as he suffered from attention deficit hyperactivity disorder (ADHD) and autism, said State Coroner Kamala Ponnampalam.
Mdm Nami and Sotaro were last seen alive by their domestic helper on Nov 13 at about 9pm. The next morning, at about 6.10am, the domestic helper woke up to discover Mdm Nami and Sotaro missing from their home at 23 Hume Avenue.
The domestic helper continued with her usual chores as Mdm Nami had sent her a message stating that she had taken Sotaro to the hospital.
Closed circuit television (CCTV) footage captured Mdm Nami driving out of the condominium at about 5.40am. She arrived at Lorong Sesuai shortly after and parked her car next to a forested area and alighted from the vehicle.
She proceeded on foot into the forested area and down a slope. She was seen to be alone and there were no other vehicles observed along that stretch of the road.
A short while later, AETOS auxiliary police officers deployed at the nearby Bukit Batok Transmission Station (BBTS) discovered the vehicle and saw that Sotaro was unresponsive inside the car. He appeared to be “sleeping” and was covered with a white blanket.
Mdm Nami was found a short distance away. She had lacerations on both sides of her neck, multiple lacerations on both wrists and two stab wounds to the chest area. A bloodstained kitchen knife with a blade measuring 18cm was also found near her body.
Mdm Nami and Sotaro were pronounced dead at the scene at 7.39am and 7.21am respectively.
Investigations revealed that Mdm Nami had most likely strangled her eldest son with a ligature made from an elastic band and raffia string in the living room of their home before she drove to Lorong Sesuai with her son’s body.
A forensic pathologist later certified Mdm Nami’s cause of death as self-inflicted stab wounds to the chest.
WOMAN SOUGHT MEDICAL ATTENTION DAYS BEFORE INCIDENT
A medical report from MHC Medical Centre (Amara) stated that Mdm Nami had sought medical attention on Nov 11, several days before the tragic incident.
She told Dr Anthony Stanislaus that she had been feeling stressed and found it hard to care for her two children while coping with work. She added that her mood had been very low, and that she had been anxious for the past few months.
She had poor sleep, poor appetite, weight loss, hair loss, and also had palpitations for about a week. She also denied having a suicide plan or intent, said the coroner’s report.
Mdm Nami was referred to a psychiatrist within the same practice and went for a consultation on the same day. She informed the psychiatrist, Dr Anand Patil, that she was stressed due to her eldest son Sotaro but did not reveal the reasons.
After Mdm Nami said she felt depressed and had suicidal thoughts, Dr Patil immediately referred her to the Department of Emergency Medicine at Singapore General Hospital (SGH).
A taxi was booked for Mdm Nami to go to SGH right away.
According to a medical report from SGH, Mdm Nami had presented with low mood and feeling depressed for the last one year. She denied being actively suicidal and was discharged with prescribed with medication for her insomnia and a memo to her private psychiatrist.
When she visited her private psychiatrist the next day, Mdm Nami reported that she was unable to sleep despite having taken the sleeping pills prescribed at SGH.
The coroner’s findings showed that her appetite was poor, she had lost 8kg, felt low in energy, was unable to concentrate at work, had poor motivation to work and sometimes experienced shortness of breath and restlessness.
Mdm Nami also reported that she had “one transient short episode of thinking of ending her life” a week prior. However, she had not made any preparations and stated that she would not harm herself on account of her children.
She was evaluated as depressed and anxious about her sleep but not “actively suicidal”. Her private psychiatrist also found her to be “relevant and coherent in her thoughts and speech with no psychotic manifestations”.
MOTHER EXPRESSED CONCERN FOR YOUNGER SON
Mdm Nami’s husband, Mr Ogata Tomoaki, was in China on a business trip at the time of the incident. He said that Mdm Nami loved their children and had never been violent with them.
The coroner's findings revealed that Mr Ogata had a "normal relationship" with his wife, although "he was busy with work and would often return home at about 10pm". Mr Ogata was unsure why Mdm Nami had committed suicide.
In her suicide note to her husband, Mdm Nami said she was depressed and that she was going to “take Satoro with her”.
She added that her panic attacks were “too much” and that she often hyperventilated. She worried that if she were to collapse, there would be no one to care for the children.
She apologised for her actions and also expressed her concern for her younger son. She repeatedly asked her husband to take good care of him and left specific instructions for his development, care and custody.
Mdm Nami’s second suicide note was addressed to her brother in Japan. She asked him to take her younger son into his custody and to raise him together with his children. She also informed him of the financial arrangements she has made for his future expenses.
Based on the evidence, the coroner said Mdm Nami’s death was found to be a deliberate act of suicide while Sotaro’s death was an “unlawful killing at the hands of his mother”. The coroner also conveyed her condolences to the family for their loss.
Editor’s note: The name of Mdm Nami’s surviving son has been removed from this story.
Where to get help: Samaritans of Singapore operates a 24-hour hotline at 1800 221 4444, or you can email pat [at] sos.org.sg. If someone you know is at immediate risk, call 24-hour emergency medical services.