S'pore mum, 30, convicted of scalding son, 5, to death, faces life imprisonment or death penalty

The boy's father sentence was amended to life imprisonment.

Fiona Tan | July 13, 2022, 02:13 AM

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The 30-year-old mother of a five-year-old boy, who was abused and subsequently scalded to death, has been convicted of murder on Jul. 12, 2022.

One of the worst cases of child abuse in Singapore

The boy was subjected to three months' of abuse in a year after he was returned in May 2015 to the care of his mother and father, Azlin Arujunah and Ridzuan Mega Abdul Rahman, respectively.

According to court documents, the child was burned with a heated spoon, pinched with pliers and assaulted physically, such as being punched in the face and shoved against the wall, and hit with tools, such as a broom and hanger.

He was also locked and kept in a cage that was meant for the couple's pet cat in their one-room flat in Toa Payoh, and was only let out during meal times.

The cage measured 0.91m in length, 0.58m in width, and 0.70m in height, while the boy was 1.05m tall at that time.

Splashed with hot water

During the week from Oct. 15 to 22, 2016, the couple, both 24 years old then, splashed several cups of hot water from a hot water dispenser in the kitchen on the boy on four occasions.

Azlin splashed hot water on the boy in the first three incidents, while Ridzuan did so in the second and fourth incidents, according to court documents.

The boy, who cannot be identified due to a gag order, collapsed after the fourth and final splashing on Oct. 22, 2016.

He was only brought to the hospital around seven hours later as his parents feared being arrested, and he was found to have been suffering from second- to third-degree burns over at least 67 per cent of his body.

The boy went into shock during the surgery, and succumbed to his injuries on Oct. 23, 2016.

Prosecutors have described this incident as "one of the worst cases of child abuse" in Singapore.

Prosecution sought to overturn 2020 ruling

Azlin and Ridzuan were found guilty of voluntarily causing grievous hurt by dangerous means through the acts of scalding in June 2020, after they were acquitted of murder by common intention to inflict fatal scald injuries in April the same year.

They were both sentenced to 27 years' jail and 24 strokes of the cane in July 2020.

Azlin was given an additional year in prison in lieu of caning as women cannot be caned under Singapore's law.

On Jul. 12, 2022, prosecutors appealed to amend Azlin's and Ridzuan's 2020 conviction and sentence respectively.

Amend Azlin's charge to murder

According to court documents, the prosecution sought to overturn Azlin's acquittal by amending her charge to murder before a five-judge panel in the Court of Appeal.

The prosecution consisting Deputy Chief Prosecutor Mohamed Faizal Mohamed Abdul Kadir and Deputy Public Prosecutor Norine Tan argued that it has always been the case that Azlin was responsible for all four scalding incidents.

The panel consisted Chief Justice Menon and Justices Andrew Phang, Judith Prakash, Tay Yong Kwang and Steven Chong.

Chief Judge Menon ultimately found that Azlin was liable for the act of hot water-pouring committed by Ridzuan in the second and fourth incidents, even though she did not physically commit the act during the final incident.

Azlin had instigated Ridzuan to pour hot water on the boy after he refused to take off his shorts to take a bath. 

She also failed to stop Ridzuan from splashing hot water on the boy at that point in time.

The judges found that Azlin intended to cause scalding injuries in the second and fourth incidents.

They added that the sum of her actions and intention of scalding in all four incidents were indisputable and convicted her of murder.

Increase in Ridzuan's sentence

The prosecution also sought to increase Ridzuan's sentence to life imprisonment.

The judges considered three critical cumulative aggregating factors, all of which were not considered during Ridzuan's sentence in 2020, according to court documents.

The first consideration was the prolonged period of escalating abuse against the boy.

Prior to the four scalding incidents that led to his slow and painful death, the boy had first suffered a variety of abuse at the hands of Azlin and Ridzuan.

Next, the manner in which the abuse was carried out was particularly cruel.

The boy was burnt extensively over his entire body, including his face and genital area.

Additionally, he was burnt over the course of a week, adding fresh wounds and injuries to his already injured and blemished skin.

Lastly, the acts of abuse were knowingly committed by Riduan against the defenceless young boy in the privacy of his own home.

Riduan had breached the trust and confidence accorded to him by abusing his own child, and allowed the abuse to continue for four days before it ultimately culminated in the boy's death.

The judges also reject the arguments put forth by Riduan's legal counsel, who claimed that he was remorseful for the abuse he had inflicted when he was only 24 years old and has low adaptive functioning abilities, and sentenced him to life imprisonment.

To be sentenced

The hearing was adjourned to a later date for further submissions to determine Azlin's sentence and whether Riduan's original sentence of 24 strokes of the cane should remain.

For her charge of murder, Azlin will receive the death penalty or life imprisonment.

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