Babysitter on trial for allegedly poisoning 2 infant girls

Wan Ting Koh
(PHOTO: Getty Images)

SINGAPORE — A babysitter on Tuesday (18 February) claimed trial at the State Courts to charges of administering poisons to two children under her care.

Sa’adiah Jamari, 38, was earlier charged with feeding six poisons to an 11-month-old girl and nine poisons to a five-month-old girl over several occasions between November and December 2016.

The poisons include Chlorpheniramine, (Dextro)methorphan, Diazepam, Orphenadrine, Oxazepam, (Pseudo)ephedrine, Temazepam, Triprolidine, and Zolpidem.

Oxazepam, Temazepam, and Zolpidem are medicines that are used to treat problems related to sleeping, while Diazepam produces a calming effect. Chlorpheniramine and Triprolidine are used to treat allergies and (Dextro)methorphan is used to treat cough. 

The offences pertaining to the five-month-old are said to have occurred between 7 November and 9 December 2016 around the vicinity of an Hougang flat, while the charge relating to the second baby allegedly took place 25 and 26 December 2016. 

The victims and their family members cannot be named due to a gag order to protect their identity.

Mother of first alleged victim testifies that baby became drowsy

On the first day of the trial, the mother of the five-month-old baby told the court how she came to use Sa’adiah’s babysitting services up until her daughter was hospitalised on the last occasion.

The 29-year-old woman, who also has an older daughter, said that she sought the urgent services of a babysitter on a Facebook group after giving birth in June 2016.

After Sa’adiah responded to her post, the mother agreed to use Sa’adiah’s services as the nurse had stayed close to her older daughter’s school. Her elder daughter was about five years old then. 

Over eight occasions in November and December 2016, the mother placed both daughters under Sa’adiah’s care, and would fetch them from the babysitter after work between 6pm and 6.30pm.

While there were no issues with the girls over the first few baby-sitting sessions, the mother noticed a change in her younger daughter’s behaviour in the later occasions. The baby became drowsy and sleepy every time her mother picked her up and also had swollen and droopy eyelids.

“Her mood was cranky as if she wants to sleep, so when I make her milk she would throw the milk aside,” recalled the mother on the stand. Her daughter would also be restless in her sleep and seemed to struggle to respond to those who addressed her. 

The mother initially believed that her daughter was suffering from teething problems or had a slight fever. She also considered the possibility that her daughter did not have sufficient sleep.

“At first I could dismiss it as one-off, after subsequent times I started to get uncomfortable, so the third or fourth time I went to the hospital to check up (and) get an opinion to validate whether there was anything wrong with her,” she said, describing the baby’s changed behaviour as a “pattern”. 

The mother brought the girl to KK Women’s and Children’s Hospital on 22 November 2016 - a day after one of the babysitting sessions - but the doctor could not find anything wrong with the girl. 

At the mother’s insistence, the doctor did a blood test but results turned up normal as well, recalled the mother, who became emotional in her testimony.

Dissatisfied, the mother left the hospital with her daughter without taking the nose drops prescribed to her. 

“I feel upset because it is my instincts against a medical examination, it’s like my observation and gut instinct on what was happening to her… (and) puts medical evaluation against my own judgement,” said the tearful mother. 

Against her instincts, the mother continued to send her daughters to Sa’adiah for babysitting four more times. On the last occasion, on 9 December 2016, her daughter’s condition worsened.  

After the mother picked her daughter up at the usual time, she noticed that her baby’s eyes were “really swollen” and could barely open.

“(She was) not really responsive, more of really drowsy, looks like (she was) very sleepy (and) not really responding to you. 

“Her hands when you lift them up, she doesn’t really have control over them,” the mother added. The baby’s head had tilted and bent backwards as if she was “stoning into space”. 

The woman had been intending to visit her parents in Johor with her daughters. However, she ended up sending her daughter to Parkway East Hospital on the same day. A blood test was administered to the baby and she was hospitalised for some five days after her glucose level was shown to be low.

The baby also had to be spoon-fed milk as she could not suck the milk bottle. She gradually recovered. 

The mother received the toxicology results at the end of December and filed a police report on 28 December 2016. Details of the toxicology report have not been revealed in court.

Shortly after the mother filed a police report, she encountered a Facebook post made by the mother of the second victim, alleging that her daughter had been drugged by a babysitter. The mother contacted the woman to provide more information about her own issue. 

Asked by the prosecution how her daughter was now, the mother described the four-year-old as being “okay”.

“She is attending school and childcare. She can be a bit naughty at times, happy, hyper and I’m glad she is her usual self,” she said.

The first tranche of the trial will run until Friday.

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