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Couple jailed 27 years each for abusing 5-year-old son who later died; prosecution appealing against murder acquittal

SINGAPORE — A married couple found guilty of grievously abusing their five-year-old son, who eventually died from severe scald injuries in 2016, were both sentenced to 27 years’ jail each.

Ridzuan Mega Abdul Rahman and his wife Azlin Arujunah have both been jailed for 27 years over ill-treating their five-year-old son, who eventually died from injuries they inflicted.

Ridzuan Mega Abdul Rahman and his wife Azlin Arujunah have both been jailed for 27 years over ill-treating their five-year-old son, who eventually died from injuries they inflicted.

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  • Azlin Arujunah and Ridzuan Mega Abdul Rahman scalded the boy with hot water
  • They also confined him in a cage meant for their pet cat and punched him
  • They were acquitted of murder and convicted of a lesser charge of causing grievous hurt with a dangerous weapon or means


SINGAPORE — A married couple found guilty of grievously abusing their five-year-old son, who eventually died from severe scald injuries in 2016, were both sentenced to 27 years’ jail each.

Ridzuan Mega Abdul Rahman, 28, was also given the maximum 24 strokes of the cane in the High Court on Monday (July 13). His wife Azlin Arujunah, 28, was given one more year of jail in lieu of caning. Under Singapore law, women cannot be caned.

The couple was acquitted of murder by common intention in April after Justice Valerie Thean ruled that they should be convicted of an alternative charge instead.

Last month, the judge found them guilty of a reduced charge of voluntarily causing grievous hurt by a dangerous weapon or means. They also pleaded guilty to several other charges of ill-treating the boy under the Children and Young Persons Act.

Prosecutors then sought the maximum sentence of life imprisonment for the reduced charge, calling it “one of the worst cases” of its kind, and one which warranted the stiffest punishment.

However, Justice Thean said that it was not appropriate because medical evidence could not determine which injuries arose from which incidents. The particular form of grievous hurt specified in the charge was “hurt which endangers life” and not “death”, she noted.

The original murder charge had been premised on four acts of abuse committed in their one-room rental flat — namely of burning or scalding, from Oct 15 to 22 in 2016. Justice Thean previously pointed out that not all of the incidents involved both parents.

The prosecution has since filed an appeal against the murder acquittal.

The couple had admitted to abusing their son over three months, including confining him in a cage meant for their pet cat, scalding him with hot water and punching him on the face.

The boy died on Oct 23, 2016. He had suffered second- to third-degree burns over two-thirds of his body from being scalded with hot water, with the prosecution saying its temperature was between 86.5°C and 98.7°C.

He cannot be named to protect the identity of his surviving siblings.

Ridzuan was also cleared of another charge of causing hurt by means of heated substance — burning the boy’s palm with a heated metal spoon around September 2016. His wife was acquitted of abetting him to do this.

Earlier, in acquitting the couple of the capital offence, Justice Thean had noted that legally, “common intention” needs to be formed before the first alleged offence is committed.

She said then that she could not infer such an intention from the medical evidence, which showed only a “collective injury”.

The couple could have faced life imprisonment or the death penalty if convicted of murder.


On Monday, the judge described their offences as grave and said that they had been “extremely cruel” in confining the boy in the cat cage. It measured 70cm in height, 58cm in width and 90cm in length, while the boy was 105cm tall.

Living under challenging circumstances was no excuse for the couple to subject their son to “physical abuse, which was in turn part of a pattern of parental neglect” until he died, Justice Thean added.

“The duty of a parent subsists regardless of economic and social circumstances. In this particular case, in any case, and even more inexcusably, help was available,” she said.

The boy’s foster mother who was Azlin’s close friend and who took care of him from when he was one month old until he was four years old, had offered to become his guardian and transfer him to a school closer to her own home, the judge noted.

“Despite their parental obligation to look after his best interests, neither parent would even sign the consent form for a change of schools. When the child was with them, he did not attend preschool,” Justice Thean said.

She further found that Azlin’s mental disorder — adjustment disorder with depressed mood — had not substantially impaired or diminished her mental responsibility for her actions.

On the other hand, Justice Thean found insufficient evidence that Ridzuan suffered from mental disorders.

His lawyers had argued in his defence that he was suffering from attention deficit hyperactivity disorder (ADHD), intermittent explosive disorder, and hypnotic use disorder, a condition associated with repeated use of sedative-like drugs.

In terms of differentiating Ridzuan from Azlin, the judge said that there was “no clear indication” of who was more responsible. “Both parents have joint and equal responsibility for the wellbeing of their children; both condoned each other’s actions,” she added.

Nevertheless, the judge noted that Ridzuan had “introduced the culture” of domestic abuse by first abusing Azlin. The court previously heard during the trial that Ridzuan had a troubled childhood and once stayed in the Singapore Boys’ Home.

He had also first abused the child in July 2016 by using a pair of pliers on two separate days to pinch the boy’s buttocks and thighs several times, causing bruises.

Justice Thean said that their neglect in getting medical attention for their son was “particularly cruel” during the last instance, as the boy “would have been in great pain even from the first scalding incident”.

At least seven hours passed before he was taken to the hospital, as they were afraid they would be arrested for child abuse. His skin was in such bad shape that doctors had to insert needles directly into the bone to give him fluids, blood and medication.

Prosecutors said that the boy showed “classic signs” of physical abuse — cuts on his head and face, nasal bone fractures and extensive bruises over his limbs and back. His skin had turned yellowish, whitish, wet and raw, with parts peeling off.

The boy’s injuries included substantial bleeding under his scalp measuring 18cm by 10cm, which was “almost the entire head”, a forensic pathologist testified during the trial.

The pathologist certified his cause of death as severe scald injuries, which were “sufficient in the ordinary cause of nature to cause death”, and blunt force craniofacial trauma.

The couple chose not to take the witness stand in their defence. They had admitted to abusing the boy in several police statements that they gave after their arrest.

Azlin told police officers that she had disciplined the child only when he gave her “attitude”, stole milk powder and told lies, and that she did not mean to kill him.

A defence psychiatrist who examined her said that she abused methamphetamine to cope with the stress of taking care of her children. At the time of her offences, she had been going through withdrawal symptoms as her supply was drying.

Azlin was defended by Mr Thangavelu, Mr Terence Tan and Ms Cheryl Ng, while Mr Eugene Thuraisingam and Ms Syazana Yahya represented Ridzuan.

Related topics

child abuse death court crime jail parents

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