M'sian man sexually assaults cousin-in-law in S'pore apartment, gets jail & caning

The victim experienced serious psychological trauma resulting from the incident.

Tharun Suresh | April 08, 2024, 04:58 PM


WhatsappWarning: This article contains descriptions of sexual assault, psychological trauma, and suicidal ideation that some readers may find distressing. Reader discretion is advised. 

A Malaysian man was found guilty of committing outrage of modesty on his cousin-in-law in his Singapore apartment.

The man was sentenced to 50 months' imprisonment and six strokes of the cane, according to a judgment released on Mar. 29, 2024.

The judge found the victim's testimony to be "unusually convincing" and "compellingly believable".

On the other hand, the judgment noted flaws and inconsistencies in the perpetrator's account of the incident.

The perpetrator also claimed to have suffered an "alcohol-induced amnesia" that prevented any recollection of what happened.

For the sake of protecting the victim's identity, the court documents used generic names to mask the identities of those involved.

The man was referred to as S, while his cousin-in-law was referred to as J.

What happened

At the time of the incident, S was the sole occupant of an apartment, which was his matrimonial home. His spouse, referred to in the judgment as "Sharon", moved to Malaysia to live with her parents in Dec. 2018.

J, the victim, is Sharon's cousin. J flew from Malaysia to Singapore to visit her relatives on Mar. 14, 2019.

She planned on residing at the house of another cousin, together with his wife and children. This cousin was referred to as "Henry".

S had made arrangements for a night out with relatives and friends at a Bollywood-themed club called Magic Carpet.

J was invited to the night out, and was added to a group chat called "Majulah Singapura" with the rest of the participants, including Henry and his wife.

The group met up at Henry's house for dinner before heading to the club at around 11pm, according to S's account.

J claims that S had suggested she come over to the guest room of his apartment instead of going back to Henry's house in the wee hours and disturbing his kids. J says she assented to this plan.

S, on the other hand, made two slightly differing claims.

He initially stated that J had asked him "if she could go back home with [him] that night”, but later claimed that a distant uncle who was present at the club had told him of J's proposal to spend the night in his apartment.

Regardless, J and S left the club at about 3:30am and boarded a cab for S's house. According to S, the uncle was in the cab as well, though he alighted at a different destination.

The incident

The judge observed that S's account drew "a blank of a rather critical period between leaving the Magic Carpet lounge and waking up alone in his guestroom", but noted that the account given by J was "vivid" and detailed.

According to J, she was shown around the house by S, before being led to the guest room. J had previously tripped while leaving the club and thus acceded to S' offer to massage her hurt ankle with an ointment.

J then recalled being very tired, and asking S to turn off the lights and leave. S did turn off the lights, but returned to the bed that J occupied and lay on it.

J insisted that S leave, but S declined and apparently confided in her about a desire to "smell" her.

S then forcibly advanced on J to kiss her lips and neck. J then said, "What’s wrong with you? You just had a baby, you’re a father. (Ms Sharon) is my sister, what are you doing?”

She also recalled S responding that “no one needs to know” and also that “I don’t know what’s wrong with me”, and that he was “sick in the head”.

S then repeatedly and forcefully molested J, putting his hand on her breasts and pulling J's hands into his pants to touch his private parts.

J tried to resist but S was "taller and stronger" than her, according to the judgment. He would "stifle all attempts to leave by pulling her and forcing her down."

In a bid to stop S, J also recounted in the midst of the assault an earlier sexual assault she claimed to have suffered involving another relative, stating "it's happened to me when I was younger” and “(t)his is something that happened when I was very young”. J recalled S expressing anger at this other relative, and uttering "how could he do this to you?". He then continued assaulting her.

J later implored S to let her go back to Henry's house. S refused, however, stating that it was "very late".

J recalled "kicking" and "crying a lot" as she was "very very distressed". Eventually, S "got off" her and said "Okay stop, stop, I’ll stop now, okay? Just stop, right?" and "I'm going to stop. Just go to sleep."

S indicated that he would sleep in the room with J, but J protested and asked to leave to Henry's apartment. S then reportedly said "It's very late, just stay here. It's not safe outside," and told her to "just go and sleep".

S apparently did not leave the guest room and fell into a deep slumber. J, once certain he was asleep, then collected her belongings and left.

She said she had "soreness and pain concentrated around her shoulders and also on the bicep area of her upper arms, running down to her forearms."

She did not return to Henry's house as she was concerned that S would seek her out there. Instead, she made a booking for a three-night stay at a hotel, and contacted a friend while on the way there.

One of the staff members in attendance, who was later called as a witness, recalled her "dishevelled" state upon arrival, the fact that she was "crying continuously", and that she helped J "fix the clasp of her jumpsuit."

J ultimately did not check in at the hotel as Henry's wife called her and asked her to return to Henry's apartment. In that same call, J told Henry's wife what had happened to her.

J's family, including her parents, flew over on the same day of the call and heard a full account of what had occurred. This conversation was recorded, the details of which corroborated with J's later accounts of the incident. Her parents also kept much of the evidence, including the clothes J wore that night, even though J did not want to immediately file a report of the incident.

"Very, very traumatised"

J returned a few days later to Malaysia, and made a statutory declaration without immediately reporting the incident to the police. This was apparently because J was worried about Sharon and her newborn baby.

J made a police report on Nov. 28, 2019, eight months after the incident.

J had, before the incident, been seeing a psychiatrist for "mixed anxiety depression" since August 2018. The psychiatrist saw her again on Mar. 18, 2019, and received a report from her about the sexual assault incident.

The psychiatrist testified to J having post-traumatic stress disorder as a result of the incident. J had returned to her overseas studies in April 2019, but experienced repeated panic attacks, nightmares and crying fits.

For the sake of closure, J eventually decided, with the support of her parents, to file a report in November 2019. In the report, J noted having suicidal thoughts and said she was "very, very traumatised".

She said in the report that she "needed to make a police report because an action like this needs to be accountable" and that she "believe[s] in the justice system".

"Unusually convincing witness"

District Judge Marvin Bay noted that J's testimony was "vivid, textured, and compellingly believable”, making her an "unusually convincing witness" in this incident. The various accounts she made of the incident since, both to her family as well as to the court, were also well corroborated both internally as well as externally with the material facts of the case.

The judgment also noted her to be a "forthright witness who was keen to engage counsel even if the questions frequently traversed rather difficult and delicate subject matter." She reportedly gave "calm, clear and considered responses" in spite of being "overcome by emotion".

On the other hand, the judgment noted serious flaws in the defence's case. S claimed to have an "alcohol induced amnesia" that led to him forgetting the incident in its entirety, and that such incidents had occurred before, though the judgment noted that there was little "medical evidence" or "document proof" to back this claim up.

S also failed to provide internally consistent reports throughout the course of the proceedings, challenging the credibility of his account.

Wife imputed motives

The judge also commented on attempts by S's wife, Sharon, to impute motives onto J's accusations so as to question their credibility. He noted that while such attempts were "not pivotal", they did warrant addressing "for the sake of completeness". Sharon raised three possible motives, all of which were regarded by the judge as very implausible.

Firstly, Sharon claimed that J was jealous of her motherhood, based on an Instagram post J made about completing her master's thesis and captioning it "and my child is born". The judgment noted that this claim "did not make sense at all".

Secondly, Sharon claimed that J was seeking her family's attention and sympathy. However, the judge noted that, taking into account the facts of the case, Sharon's claim does not corroborate with how "closely knit" J's relationship with her family actually was.

Lastly, Sharon alleged that J might have accused S of sexual assault because she works for an NGO that deals with sexual violence against women. The judge considered this motive to be the "most remote of the three", noting that it was "hopelessly improbable that Ms J would risk the grave repercussions of making a false report and perjury just to claim a dubious status as a victim of sexual violence."

Sharon also compiled a series of Instagram posts made by J from the time of the assault on Mar. 16, 2019, to the time of making her initial police report in Nov. 2019. The posts, which showed her to be "smiling, and in apparent good spirits on various occasions in Europe and celebrating a local festival in Malaysia" were meant to suggest that J was "not behaving in a manner a victim would be expected to."

The judgment countered this submission, noting that "victims of sexual offences may not behave in a stereotypical way". The judgment cited the following:

"... the fact that the Victim was not driven into despair or helplessness was not by itself a ground for disbelief of her evidence. People react in different ways to sexual abuse and may compartmentalise or rationalise their reactions. A calm, undisturbed disposition may generally incline the court to conclude that no wrong was committed, but it is not necessary for a complainant to be distraught for her to be believed."

Moreover, the judgment referred to J's private Instagram posts, inaccessible to Sharon, which presented a very different, and darker, picture of her mental state highlighting her struggles with conditions she identified as depression, anxiety, and PTSD as well as insomnia.


The man was sentenced to 50 months' imprisonment and six strokes of the cane.

The prosecution had sought a jail term of five to six years' jail and six strokes of the cane, while the defence sought no more than three years and six strokes of the cane. The maximum sentencing for an outrage of modesty case is ten years' jail and caning.

The judgment noted that the sexual assault was extreme, but took into account the fact that the act did not seem pre-meditated and had little prior planning.

While S was affected by his consumption of alcohol, the judgment noted that there was a significant breach of trust in the situation, as the victim had believed in S due to their relationship, and felt safe staying over in the guest room.

The judgment noted S' intention to appeal against both his conviction and sentence.

According to the judgment, the man was granted S$30,000 bail.

Top photo from SG Courts