Man who broke into woman's home, raped her gets 21 years' jail, 18 strokes

Wan Ting Koh
(Yahoo News Singapore file photo)

He had broken into the second floor of a shophouse looking to steal valuables but when he spotted a woman asleep in the unit, he decided to rape her as well.

As a result of Muhammad Sutarno Nasir’s actions, the 27-year-old victim’s wedding that had been scheduled for July this year was called off as her fiancé said that he did not want to start a new phase of life on a negative note. The couple also split up within two months of the rape.

The 30-year-old Sutarno was sentenced on Monday (20 November) to 21 years’ jail and 18 strokes of the cane after he pleaded guilty to one count of aggravated rape, one count of housebreaking by night with theft, and one count of possession of drugs. Five other charges relating to housebreaking and drugs were taken into consideration for his sentencing.

According to court documents, the victim – who cannot be named due to a gag order – was staying with her 75-year-old grandmother in a walk-up unit of the shophouse when the incident took place on 23 July last year. The two slept in separate rooms.

Sometime after 10pm the woman fell asleep in her bed. Her belongings, including an iPhone, laptop and her handbag, were by her side at the time. At around 5am that night, Sutarno – who had been loitering in the area with the intention of robbing homes – spotted an open window leading in the woman’s unit and decided to climb in.

Once inside the unit’s living room, he took a handbag belonging to the victim’s grandmother. He later entered the victim’s bedroom, where he found her asleep. Sutarno then decided to rape her.

The victim woke up upon feeling a light brush on her arm and found Sutarno kneeling next to her, which prompted her to scream. Sutarno then covered the victim’s mouth as she began to struggle.

He began to strangle the victim and when this failed to silence her, he proceed to punch her face multiple times. Fearing for her life, the victim pretended to pass out and laid still with her eyes closed. Seeing the woman immobilised, Sutarno removed her shorts and underwear, and proceeded to rape her. The victim continued to feign unconsciousness throughout the act.

After about two minutes, the man wiped the woman with her underwear before getting up. He took the woman’s handbag and entered an office on the first floor but did not find anything of value to steal there. He then left through the rear door which he unlocked with a key from the woman’s handbag.

The woman, who was afraid to move after Sutarno left, eventually got up after hearing no signs of activity for a few minutes. She found her iPhone missing but her laptop untouched, and used it to contact her boyfriend and friends to ask for help.

At around 5.32am, a male friend who saw her Facebook post contacted her through Facebook Messenger and called the police.

The woman’s grandmother became aware of what had happened only after she was woken up by noises in the living room, whereupon she found police officers in the home and saw that her granddaughter had blood on her face.

Around $4,000 worth of items had stolen from the woman and her grandmother. Sutarno was arrested at 10.20am the same day near an MRT station. Utensils for drug consumption were also found in his pocket.

The woman was later conveyed to Changi General Hospital where she was found to have suffered extensive injuries to her face and abdomen, including and bruises on her cheeks, chest and lips.

She was also found to have tears in her hymen and Sutarno’s semen was found on a swab taken from the woman’s cervix and her underwear. A scan conducted also found her with lesions in her brain.

In a psychiatric report from the Institute of Mental Health, the woman was diagnosed with Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD). Since the incident, she has lived in constant fear of having intruders in her room and has been unable to sleep soundly. She also keeps the lights on at night and has a pair of scissors beside her bed to defend herself.

According to the report the woman also “struggles with thoughts of self-blame, blaming herself for moving into a separate bedroom from her grandmother, and would have frequent intrusive memories of the assault”.

The victim, who was a virgin prior to being raped, also believes she is “unworthy of others” after being rejected by her fiancé. “Ending this relationship made me feel worthless. I felt that after this thing happened to me, no one would want me anymore,” she wrote in her victim impact statement.

About a month before the rape, Sutarno had also broken into a The Coffee Bean and Tea Leaf outlet along Eunos Road. His sling bag was discovered in the outlet’s kitchen and was found to contain diamorphine, a lighter and aluminium foil amongst other items.

Victim’s ‘aspirations were obliterated’

The prosecution, led by Deputy Public Prosecutor David Khoo and Nicholas Lai, sought at least 21 years’ jail and 18 strokes of the cane for Sutarno. The prosecution contended that Sutarno had used excessive force on the woman and his attack had an “especially serious and long lasting mental effect” on the victim, who still continues to suffer from the symptoms of PTSD.

 Said DPP Khoo, “The (woman) had plans to get married in 2017 to her then-fiancé and had every expectation of a fulfilling future as a wife (and in time to come) a mother. Her aspirations were obliterated on that fateful Sunday, 24 July 2016, when (Sutarno) breached the sanctity of her home, raped her, and stripped her of her innocence and dignity.”

Sutarno had also been nabbed for drug-related offences in 2004 and dishonest misappropriation of property in 2011. He was sentenced to reformative training for the drug offences and four months’ jail for the property offences.

In mitigation, Sutarno’s lawyer, Alice Tan Chor Hoon, who was assigned by the Criminal Legal Aid Scheme to the case, said that her client had pleaded guilty to the offence “at the earliest opportunity” and was remorseful for the acts.

Sutarno has submitted a letter of apology to the woman and to the court. Tan added that Sutarno comes from an “underprivileged background” and has only a primary school education.

He had been working as a packer with Singapore Post when he started fighting more frequently and intensely with his then-girlfriend, which drove him to “excessive drinking and substance abuse”, said the lawyer. Tan sought 18 years’ jail and 18 strokes of the cane for Sutarno.

In sentencing Sutarno, Justice Chan Seng Onn said, “Words cannot fully express how much pain and suffering you inflicted on the victim as viewed by her statement… You have wrecked her life.”

For aggravated rape, Sutarno could have been jailed between eight and 20 years and caned at least 12 strokes, while for committing housebreaking by night with the intention to steal, he could have been jailed between two years and 14 years.

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