Drug abuser who held toddler hostage in Sembawang flat gets 5 years' jail, 6 strokes

Police officers seen at the Sembawang Drive HDB block where the incident took place. (Yahoo News Singapore file photo)

A man who held a toddler hostage in a Sembawang Drive flat during a protracted standoff with the police in 2016 was sentenced to five years’ jail and six strokes of the cane on Tuesday (20 March).

Muhammad Iskandah Suhaimi, 39, had earlier pleaded guilty to kidnapping his then-girlfriend’s two-year-old son, possessing a knuckle duster and other drug-related offences.

The sentence handed to Iskandah was in line with what the prosecution sought.

Deputy Public Prosecutor (DPP) Stephanie Koh said that Iskandah, who was diagnosed with mephamphetamine use disorder of mild severity, schizophrenia and a delusional disorder of the persecutory type by the Institute of Mental Health, had “resisted any form of treatment” while incarcerated.

Psychiatric reports also placed Iskandah at a high risk of reoffending and relapsing into drug use.

The DPP pointed out that one of the reports suggested that Iskandah’s future criminal behaviour will likely be “violent or fear-inducing”. The prosecution also cited Iskandah’s criminal record, which includes an attempted rape in 2009.

Iskandah also indicated that he would try to find another girlfriend upon his release, said the DPP.

The DPP sought a “lengthy jail term” in order to “remove (Iskandah) from public circulation” and for him to receive the necessary psychiatric care.

In mitigation, Iskandah told the court that he did not hurt the child. He pleaded for a lenient sentence as he wished to care for his mother, who recently had her legs amputated, upon his release.

Iskandah’s kidnapping of the boy on 27 September 2016 resulted in a 17-hour standoff with the police. The boy was unharmed in the incident and was observed to have been sleeping throughout most of it.

Iskandah had been staying with his girlfriend, then 33, since mid-October 2015. On the day of the incident, when the girlfriend stepped out of the flat with her son to buy cigarettes for Iskandah, he pulled the boy back into the unit and locked the main gate.

The girlfriend was unable to unlock the main gate and the police were called to the scene.

When officers failed to negotiate the release of the boy, the Crisis Negotiation Unit were called in, but Iskandah remained uncooperative. During the incident, Iskandah was seen consuming drugs in the unit and was at times agitated during his interaction with the authorities.

The next day, shortly after noon, as Iskandah was in the toilet, a Special Operations Command (SOC) team broke into the unit through the window and removed the front gate. The team rescued the boy and arrested Iskandah.

Iskandah later admitted that he kept the boy as a hostage to prevent his girlfriend from reporting his drug consumption to the police.

During the negotiations, an airbag and ambulance were deployed and a police cordon was set up within the block and the nearby carpark. The SOC’s Special Tactics and Rescue team and the Singapore Civil Defence Force’s Disaster Assistance and Rescue Team were also activated during the incident.

On the same day, a packet of methamphetamine was found in Iskandah’s girlfriend’s possession. Both the girlfriend and Iskandah admitted to sharing the drugs for their own consumption.

For kidnapping, could have been jailed up to 10 years, as well as fined, caned or both. For possessing a scheduled weapon, he could have been jailed up to five years, caned up to a maximum of six strokes, or both.

Related stories:

Man admits to kidnapping girlfriend’s two-year-old son in Sembawang hostage incident

Man in Sembawang hostage drama charged for having a knuckle duster

Hostage situation at Sembawang Drive