SINGAPORE — A couple accused of killing their five-year-old son through sustained abuse in 2016 were acquitted of the murder with common intention on Friday (3 April).
Justice Valerie Thean instead asked lawyers for Ridzuan Mega Abdul Rahman and his wife, Azlin Arujunah, both 27, and prosecutors to submit on alternative charges and adjourned the case to a later date.
Acquitting the married couple, Justice Thean stated that “common intention” had to be formed before the offence was committed. She added that she could not infer such an intention from the medical evidence which showed only a “collective injury”.
The charge of murder with common intention carries a maximum penalty of death or life imprisonment and caning.
The judge also cleared Ridzuan of his charge of causing hurt by means of heated substance by burning his son’s palm with a heated metal spoon around September 2016. His wife was acquitted of abetting him in the offence.
The acquittal of the capital offence was a win for lawyers representing Ridzwan, who had argued that there was no evidence of a pre-arranged plan between the couple to inflict severe scald injuries on the boy. Not all the injuries were inflicted by Ridzwan, said lawyers Eugene Thuraisingam and Haziq Ika, who added that their client could only be found guilty of the lesser charge of voluntarily causing grievous hurt at most.
There was also no evidence to show that the severe scald injuries on the boy would ordinarily result in his death, the lawyers stated. They pointed out the boy’s pre-existing pneumonia made him more vulnerable and was the “real reason for his eventual demise”.
Even with their acquittal, Azlin and Ridzuan face other charges which are still pending before the court. Azlin has four charges of ill treating her son while Ridzuan has five similar charges along with two charges of voluntarily causing hurt by means of a heated substance – for burning the boy’s palm with a heated spoon on two occasions.
What the two accused allegedly did
In the three months before he died, the boy was subjected to constant psychological and physical abuse, with his parents using a pair of pliers, a broom, hot water and hot cigarette ash on him. The couple also allegedly confined the boy in a metal cage meant for the family’s cat and punched his face.
The abuse culminated in the boy, then five-years-and-nine-months old, collapsing on 22 October 2016 after being scalded with hot water. His parents brought him to the hospital six hours later and he died on 23 October 2016. They were arrested within the next two days.
The boy had suffered second to third-degree burns over two-thirds of his body from being scalded with hot water. Apart from burns, he sustained cuts on his head and face, nasal bone fractures, and bruises over his limbs and back.
The couple had declined to testify in court when their defence was called.
During their trial, the court was told that Ridzuan had a troubled childhood and was suffering from intermittent explosive disorder, and hypnotic use disorder, and attention deficit hyperactivity disorder.
A defence psychiatrist testified that Azlin took drugs to cope with the stress of taking care of her children. She also suffered from an adjustment disorder with depressed mood at the time of the offences.
Azlin is represented by lawyers Thangavelu, Terence Tan and Cheryl Ng.
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