S'porean man, 31, jailed for life for killing stepdaughter, 4, by kicking her as she wasn't toilet-trained

His previous voluntarily causing hurt conviction was overturned by the Court of Appeal.

Matthias Ang | April 04, 2024, 12:10 AM



A 31-year-old man has been sentenced to life imprisonment and 12 strokes of the cane for murder after he killed his four-year-old stepdaughter, Nursabrina Agustiani Abdullah, by kicking her in anger in September 2018.

The sentence was handed down by Singapore's highest court, the Court of Appeal, on Apr 2, 2024.

Previously acquitted of murder, convicted of voluntarily causing grievous hurt

Previously in 2022, Muhammad Salihin Ismail had been acquitted by the High Court of murder, The Straits Times reported.

At that time, the High Court judge was quoted as saying that while Salihin had kicked the victim deliberately, he did not have the intention to hit the part of the body that was fatally injured.

Salihin was then convicted of voluntarily causing grievous hurt and sentenced to nine years in prison and 12 strokes of the cane.

The prosecution subsequently appealed against the High Court's decision on Apr. 2, 2024, and argued that he should be convicted of murder.

The Court of Appeal, comprising of Chief Justice Sundaresh Menon and Justices Tay Yong Kwang and Debbie Ong, allowed the appeal to proceed.

What happened in September 2018?

In September 2018, Salihin and his wife, Sabrina's biological mother, were trying to toilet-train Sabrina in preparation for school.

On Sep. 1, 2018, when Sabrina's mother was out for work, Salihin found a puddle of urine on the floor just outside the toilet of the flat.

He soon realised that Sabrina had urinated there.

He became angry. He subsequently called Sabrina over and placed her on the toilet bowl.

While Sabrina was seated on the toilet bowl, Salihin hit her in the stomach a few times with his fist.

Later in the afternoon, Sabrina indicated that she wanted to go to the toilet.

After Sabrina came out of the toilet, Salihin went inside and saw that she had urinated on the floor in front of the toilet bowl.

He became angry and called Sabrina over to question her.

He then pushed her on the shoulder, causing her to fall sideways on the ground.

While Sabrina was lying on the ground, Salihin forcefully kicked her stomach at least twice, according to court documents.

Salihin then picked up Sabrina and placed her on the toilet bowl before hitting her in the stomach a few times with his fist.

The girl complained of a stomach ache later in the evening and began vomiting throughout the night.

Salihin suspected that Sabrina's symptoms were a result of his blows. However, he did not mention the assault to his wife or called for medical help.

Salihin only told his wife to call the ambulance on the morning of Sep. 2 when Sabrina became unconscious and he was unable to resuscitate her.

Sabrina was conveyed to Ng Teng Fong General Hospital, where she was pronounced dead.

Prosecution: Salihin admitted his kicks were intentional

On Apr. 2, 2024, the prosecution said that whether Salihin had intended to hit a specific part of Sabrina's abdomen was irrelevant, ST reported.

The prosecution noted that Salihin had admitted his kicks were intentional and he had done so "very forcefully".

During his defence, Salihin suggested that Sabrina's fatal injuries could have been due to other causes such as her vomiting or when he performed cardiopulmonary resuscitation on her when she fell unconscious.

Court of Appeal: Salihin's intention to kick Sabrina was clear

Menon was quoted by ST as saying that the High Court judge had erred in understanding and applying the law.

According to Menon, the prosecution is not required by law to show that the accused intended to cause the medical consequences of his actions.

Salihin's intention to kick the girl in her stomach to teach her a lesson was clear from his actions, he added.

The defence also accepted that the force Salihin had used to kick her was enough to cause death, he said.

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