A 35-year-old man in Singapore was sentenced to 21.5 years in jail and 18 strokes of the cane on Sep. 19 after he pleaded guilty to killing his two-and-a-half-year-old daughter and burning her body in a metal pot.
He had committed the crime with his wife, and they were trying to hide the girl's death, which they did for some five years.
Gag order imposed
The convicted man cannot be named due to gag orders to protect the surviving victims.
The wife cannot be identified and the location of the killing cannot be revealed due to the gag orders imposed.
However, the judge allowed the victim's first name, Umaisyah, to be published.
The judge said he did not want her to be identified merely as "the deceased" or "the victim", and for her to be remembered by her name instead.
The man pleaded guilty to one count of culpable homicide not amounting to murder by causing his daughter's death and failing to get her medical help.
He also pleaded guilty to three charges, including rioting, ill-treating his step-son by punching his body and hand, and consuming methamphetamine.
Five other charges were considered during sentencing.
The couple have since divorced.
The offender and his then-wife had four children of their own.
Their offspring included the 2.5-year-old victim, who was born in 2011.
The woman had a daughter and a son from a previous marriage.
Girl unfamiliar with own parents
The victim, Umaisyah, was placed in foster care in November 2011 when she was three to four months old.
At that time, her father was sent to a drug rehabilitation centre and her mother was assessed to be unable to care for her.
Some 1.5 years later, in June 2013, the girl was returned to her parents.
She had not turned two years old.
She would often cry as her parents were not familiar to her, the prosecution said.
She had by then already spent 1.5 years in foster care.
Abused by own parents
Umaisyah was abused by her parents.
Her father would hit her with a belt or a hanger, and would punch her thigh and pinch her body.
The couple also abused their other children in the same way.
Killed in March 2014
In March 2014, some nine months after she was returned to her parents, the girl soiled her diaper and played with her faeces, which angered her father and mother.
The girl cried when asked not to, and her mother slapped her cheeks and "flicked her lips", the prosecution said.
Father hit girl hard causing seizure
The father forcefully slapped his daughter two to three times.
He had consumed meth earlier that morning.
The girl became weak as a result of the assault.
She sat on the floor, her body leaned to the right and bent forward.
She stopped crying and started gasping for air.
Her mother saw blood and liquid on her mouth and nose.
The girl suffered a significant traumatic brain injury that led to a concussive brain seizure.
Did not seek medical help
Her father tried cardiopulmonary resuscitation a few times but she remained unresponsive.
Her parents did not bring her to the hospital or sought help.
They were worried about being arrested for causing the injuries, while the father was worried that his drug use would lead to his arrest.
The prosecution said the girl could have been saved if medical care was sought.
The couple destroyed evidence and lied to the authorities and family members about Umaisyah's whereabouts.
When their daughter died, the parents put her in a metal pot and set her body on fire in the back of the accused's lorry.
They made sure her body was fully burnt.
The pot was then placed in a cardboard box.
It was then sealed with masking tape and covered in cling wrap.
The box was left under the kitchen stove in their flat.
Umaisyah's uncle was warned against touching the box.
He was told it contained items from the offender's lorry.
MOE contact parents about P1 registration
The Ministry of Education did contact the parents in 2017 to find out why the girl had not registered for Primary 1.
The mother lied that her estranged husband had taken the child away.
The father also lied that his relatives were caring for the girl in Malaysia.
Box at home raised questions
The mother's brother, who is Umaisyah's uncle, became increasingly curious about the box in the flat.
He tried to throw it away in 2017 when cockroach eggs were seen in the cling wrap.
The box was wrapped again and Umaisyah's mother warned her brother against touching it.
Umaisyah's mother then went to prison in 2019.
That was when her brother opened the box.
Inside was a decomposed and wet lump.
He later showed the contents of the pot to his sister's friends who had visited the flat.
They were there after attending the sentencing of Umaisyah's mother for crimes committed before September 2019.
The friends did not have a good feeling about it and made a police report.
The body was found more than five years after the girl died.
Umaisyah's body was burned "beyond recognition", the prosecution said.
Only small bones and a loose tooth were uncovered in the charred remnants, the court heard.
No hands and feet, nor facial features could not be identified.
Judge admonished offender
Justice Aedit Abdullah told the offender off during sentencing, CNA reported.
The judge said the gag order was not to protect the offender but his remaining children.
As the young girl had died, "the gag order cannot protect her", and he lifted it partially so that the victim's name would be published and remembered.
"It's important to my mind that we all remember her by her name, and not by cold and impersonal nouns such as deceased or victim," he said, according to CNA.
The judge said Umaisyah died very young and did not have the chance to grow up to have her own identity and lead her own life.
He added that he feared that Umaisyah would be remembered only as the child who was killed, burnt and kept in a pot.
The judge added that there was "little to be said" in the man's favour in mitigation.
"Slapping a two-and-a-half-year-old child to such an extent that she would stop breathing and suffer a concussive seizure is unbelievable," the judge added, according to CNA.
The judge added in his sentencing remarks: "The punishment that is imposed on you reflects the state and society’s abhorrence for your behaviour, and also aims to deter others from committing similar acts."
Six family members spoke to the man after sentencing, reported CNA.
The case of Umaisyah's mother is pending before the courts.
She and the offender were initially charged with murder.
The prosecution subsequently withdrew the murder charge against her.
Top photo via Unsplash