SINGAPORE — Under the pretext of having an important family matter to discuss, a man lured his teen niece to a hotel room where he tricked her into stripping before molesting her.
The 51-year-old man told the girl, then around 15 years old, that there were doctored photos of her face edited onto nude bodies on a website.
The married man then offered to help her prove the pictures were edited by taking nude photos of her himself.
Believing that her uncle was trying to help her, the girl stripped. However, her paternal uncle then took advantage of her, claiming she could repay him this way.
On Friday (6 August), the man was convicted of one charge of molesting the girl, now 18, on 13 January 2018 at a hotel room in Village Hotel Changi. He claimed trial to the charge and was found guilty by District Judge Carol Ling.
Both the victim and her uncle cannot be named to protect the girl’s identity.
Ordinary relationship with uncle: niece
The victim had testified in the trial that she had viewed her uncle as a nice person before the incident. They would meet at family gatherings once or twice every few weeks and they shared an “ordinary and unremarkable familial relationship”, prosecution submissions stated.
A month before 13 January 2018, the man told his niece that he had an important family matter to discuss with her. He asked her to meet again a few times before the victim agreed to do so on 13 January 2018. She told her sister about the intended meet up.
The man initially kept the venue a secret and told the girl to take a bus to Changi after her tuition ended. They met at a bus-stop and he led her to Village Hotel Changi. The victim felt confused about having to be in a hotel room with her uncle, but sat down to eat the fried rice he packed for her.
After she ate, the man claimed that there were photographs of her face edited onto naked bodies on a website traced to Batam, without showing her the photos. He informed her that there were two options.
“The first involved taking them down from the website at a very high cost, while the second would cost an amount of money and may ruin her family’s reputation,” said the prosecution, who added that the man only showed her photographs of celebrities whose faces had been edited onto naked bodies. The prosecution didn't specify the second scenario mentioned by the man.
Scared and confused, the girl said she wanted to make a police report. The man told her that this was not viable as her family and father’s reputation would be damaged. He claimed he could prove that the photos were edited but that he would need the girl’s nude photos. The victim agreed, not knowing what else to do.
She removed her clothes and heard multiple shutter sounds coming from her uncle’s camera and saw a flash. However, she did not see what the man’s phone captured.
The girl then went under the blanket, at her uncle’s instruction. The man then climbed over her and molested her, saying that this was a way she could repay him.
After a while, the man stopped and told the victim to lie to her sister that she was staying at a mosque overnight. He asked her to stay the night at the hotel. The girl declined as her brother was alone at home.
They left the room and the man gave the girl cash to take a cab home. Feeling lost and confused, the girl did not report the incident to anyone. She felt “dirty” and deleted the phone messages between herself and her uncle, wanting to erase traces of the incident.
Two days after the incident, the victim did not go to school as she felt unsafe and afraid.
“After not being able to fall asleep, and having mulled over the matter, it eventually registered to her that this was a sexual assault. She lodged a police report,” said the prosecution.
“Rehearsed and contrived” evidence
The man’s defence was that the offence never happened, with him suggesting that the victim had been “sexually inappropriate”, had suggested the meeting then voluntarily removed her clothes, and shared an “unusually close relationship with the accused”. He suggested that the victim concocted the allegation to get her parents' attention, so that they would return from the United States.
However, the prosecution argued that these claims were an afterthought, as they were only heard during the man’s testimony.
The victim’s grandfather, who is the man’s father-in-law and testified as a defence witness, claimed the victim was “not of sound mind”, as she had showered without closing the door and walked naked to her room.
The man’s wife and sister-in-law also testified in support of the man’s defence that he had fallen into a “trap”. The wife claimed that on the day of the incident, the girl was wearing an oversized shirt with a low neckline and exposed her breast. The sister-in-law testified that the girl would often behave inappropriately by removing her pants before entering the washroom and sit very close to the accused man.
The prosecution rebutted that both wife and sister-in-law were partial to the man and gave evidence which was “rehearsed and contrived”.
The man will be sentenced on 22 September.
For molest, he faces up to two years in jail, and/or a fine. He cannot be caned as he is above 50.
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