Within the span of four months, a five-year-old boy was repeatedly abused, with his parents alleged to have scalded him with hot water and confined him to a cage meant for a cat.
Today (Nov. 12), Azlin Arujunah and Ridzuan Mega Abdul Rahman, stood trial for murdering their son after he died from severe scald injuries and blunt force trauma to the head on Oct. 23, 2016.
The married couple, both 27, also face multiple charges of ill-treatment and voluntarily causing hurt.
Neither the victim nor his siblings can be identified due to a gag order imposed by the court.
"Tortured to death"
In court, Deputy Public Prosecutors Tan Wen Hsien, Daphne Lim, and Li Yihong called the child's death "horrific as it is tragic", labelling the parents' conduct as "cruel and abhorrent".
"Leaving aside the physical abuse he suffered, one cannot imagine the pain and torment the deceased must have endured in the months leading up to his death. He was tortured to his death, and had no one to turm to."
Court documents showed that the boy, who was born in 2011, had initially been fostered out to a close friend of his mother, as "she was unable to care for him".
He eventually returned to live with his biological parents in May 2015.
According to the prosecution, his abuse started in July the following year.
Both Ridzuan and Azline were unemployed at the time and received financial assistance.
Ridzuan also sold items such as amulets, love potions and old currencies online on Carousell.
The couple is alleged to have committed the following acts from July to October 2016:
- On two separate occasions, Ridzuan used a pair of pliers to pinch the victim's buttocks and thighs, causing bruises.
- After finding biscuits scattered on the floor, Azlin hit the boy with a broom on his body, back, and legs. The boy was left with marks on his stomach, while also developing a limp and misaligned kneecap.
- On two separate occasions, Azlin pushed the boy, causing him to fall and hit his head on the edge of a pillar. He was noted to be bleeding after the incident.
- On multiple occasions, Ridzuan heated a metal spoon over the stove and burned the victim's palm with it.
- Ridzuan flicked cigarette ash from a lighted cigarette onto the boy's arm while also hitting his palm with a hanger.
- Ridzuan punched the boy hard in the face, causing him to bleed profusely from the nose.
In the week leading up to his death, Azlin and Ridzuan allegedly began scalding their son with hot water, with at least four incidents alleged to have occurred between Oct. 15 and 22.
They are alleged to have filled a cup with hot water from a hot water dispenser in the kitchen before splashing the water "cruelly and unrelentingly" on the victim.
"By so doing, they caused the deceased intense pain and severe injury. No medical attention was rendered to the deceased for the extensive injuries he suffered," said the prosecution.
Scientific analysis by the Forensic Chemistry and Physics Laboratory of the Health Sciences Authority established that the average temperature of the water was 92.6 degrees celsius.
HSA established that the temperature of the water would have been between 86.5 degrees celsius and 98.7 degrees celsius.
This would have caused immediate burns upon contact with the skin, according to the prosecution.
The repeated scalding is alleged to have caused the boy to sustain blisters, white patches, and peeling skin over various parts of his face and body.
Pus also oozed from his wounds.
Between Oct. 21 and 22, the boy was also allegedly confined in a cage meant for cats.
The last incident
At about 12pm on Oct. 22, Azlin wanted to bathe the boy but he refused to remove his shorts.
According to the prosecution, Ridzuan then used a broom to hit the boy over his head, hands, and legs.
As the boy still refused to take off his shorts, Ridzuan started throwing several cups of hot water at the boy who shouted "don't want" in Malay.
With the boy now crouching over in the toilet, Ridzuan poured hot water over his back and calf area, causing the victim to fall forwards onto the bathroom floor where he remained motionless.
The prosecution alleged that Ridzuan and Azlin decided not to convey him to the hospital immediately out of fear that they would be arrested for child abuse:
"Even after he had collapsed, Azlin admitted: 'At the back of my mind, I knew that if we did not send (the victim), he would die and if we sent (the victim) to the hospital, we would die'."
The boy was only brought to the hospital after more than six hours.
Court documents show that the boy was registered at the KK Women's and Children's Hospital at about 7:57pm where he was transferred to the Children's Intensive Care unit for emergency treatment.
Police were sent a message from the hospital reporting a case of non-accidental injury.
At the hospital, the boy was found to be suffering from multiple injuries including:
- Major burn injuries to 67% of his body
- acute kidney injury
- multiple facial lacerations
- background of iron deficiency anaemia
Despite the efforts of the hospital's medical staff, the boy succumbed to his injuries the next morning on Oct. 23, 2016.
Ridzuan and Azlin were arrested on Oct. 23 and Oct. 25 respectively.
Both were sent for psychiatric assessment and it was determined that:
- suffered from an adjustment disorder in the period leading up to the offences
- she has an abnormal personality characterised by dependent and antisocial traits
- appeared to have antisocial personality traits
- did not suffer from any mental disorder or intellectual disability
Both were found to be not of unsound mind at the time of the offences.
However, Azlin and Ridzuan sought further psychiatric opinions and reports were issued saying that:
- Azlin had a depressed mood at the time of the offence
- was suffering from Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder (ADHD)
- Intermittent Explosive Disorder (IED)
- hypnotic use disorder
The prosecution stated that they disagreed with the subsequent assessment that Azlin's condition substantially impaired her responsibility for the victim's death as well as any causal link between Ridzuan's disorders and his offending behaviour.
The penalty for murder is death, or life imprisonment with caning.
Top image by Nathan Dumlao and Madhav via Unsplash