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Man gets life in prison for murder of his 4-year-old stepdaughter

Man gets life in prison for murder of his 4-year-old stepdaughter

Source: Straits Times
Article Date: 03 Apr 2024
Author: Selina Lum

The Court of Appeal overturned his conviction on a lesser charge of voluntarily causing grievous hurt.

A 31-year-old man who kicked his stepdaughter in anger, killing the four-year-old, was sentenced to life imprisonment for murder on April 2, after the Court of Appeal overturned his conviction on a lesser charge.

Muhammad Salihin Ismail was also sentenced by the apex court to 12 strokes of the cane.

He had gone on trial in 2021 on a charge of murder for causing the girl, Nursabrina Agustiani Abdullah, to suffer fatal abdominal injuries between Sept 1 and Sept 2, 2018, at the family’s rental flat in Bukit Batok.

The girl, who was known to her family as Sabrina, was taken to hospital on the morning of Sept 2 and pronounced dead at about 10.15am.

Under Section 300(c) of the Penal Code, murder is committed where an offender has the intention to cause a bodily injury, and that injury is sufficient to cause death in the ordinary course of nature.

In 2022, a High Court judge acquitted Salihin of murder, saying that although he had kicked the victim intentionally, there was no intention to strike the part of the body that was fatally injured.

He was then sentenced to nine years’ jail and 12 strokes of the cane for voluntarily causing grievous hurt.

On April 2, prosecutors appealed against the High Court decision, pressing for Salihin to be convicted of murder.

Deputy Public Prosecutor Senthilkumaran Sabapathy argued that it was irrelevant whether he had intended to strike a specific part of Sabrina’s abdomen.

The prosecutor said Salihin had admitted that his kicks were intentional and that he had kicked her “very forcefully”.

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

Chief Justice Menon said the lower court judge erred in understanding and applying the law.

He noted that the law does not require the prosecution to show that the accused intended to cause the medical consequences of his actions.

He added that from the evidence, it was clear Salihin intended to kick the girl in the stomach because he wanted to teach her a lesson.

The defence accepted that Salihin had kicked the victim with force that was sufficient to cause death, he said.

The Court of Appeal will issue detailed grounds of decision at a later date.

Salihin married Sabrina’s mother in 2016 when the girl was two years old.

The couple also have a pair of twin boys together.

On Sept 1, 2018, there were two instances when Salihin became angry with the girl for urinating on the floor. The girl’s mother was at work at the time.

Prosecutors said Salihin placed her on the toilet bowl and hit her in the stomach in the first incident in the morning.

In the second incident that afternoon, Salihin pushed her and kicked her abdomen twice while she was lying on the floor.

Sabrina started sobbing after the first kick and curled up on the floor.

Salihin admitted that he knew that it was wrong for an adult to kick a child in the stomach, and knew “it will be very painful for her”.

That evening, the girl complained of a stomach ache and started vomiting, which went on overnight.

Salihin suspected that Sabrina’s symptoms were due to him kicking her, but he did not tell his wife about the assault or seek medical help.

He asked his wife to call the paramedics only after Sabrina became unconscious the next morning.

An autopsy found that she had died from internal bleeding in the abdomen due to blunt force trauma.

In his defence, Salihin suggested that there were other causes for the fatal injuries.

He said the injuries could also have been caused by the vomiting action, when the twins “bounced” on Sabrina’s stomach, or when he performed cardiopulmonary resuscitation on her.

Source: Straits Times © SPH Media Limited. Permission required for reproduction.

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