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Man accused of molesting daughter while she used virtual reality headset claims he often had to discipline her

SINGAPORE — A technician accused of molesting his young daughter testified in court on Thursday (June 16) that a few days before she reported him to the police in January 2020, he had slapped her and threatened to take away her privileges for getting home late from school.
A father on trial for molesting his daughter said that in disciplining the girl, he had asked her to do more household chores, confiscated her mobile phone, scolded and slapped her, and hit her with a cane.
A father on trial for molesting his daughter said that in disciplining the girl, he had asked her to do more household chores, confiscated her mobile phone, scolded and slapped her, and hit her with a cane.
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  • A 35-year-old man claimed trial to a charge of molesting his daughter, then 12
  • He took the witness stand in his defence and told the court about how he had to discipline her
  • He got to know the girl when she was eight, after her mother revealed that he had impregnated her when they were dating
  • The girl has accused him of molesting her five times from 2018 to 2020

SINGAPORE — A technician accused of molesting his young daughter testified in court on Thursday (June 16) that a few days before she reported him to the police in January 2020, he had slapped her and threatened to take away her privileges for getting home late from school.

This was one of the frequent punishments he used to discipline her on various matters — and one of the reasons why he thought she made the allegations against him, he said.

The Singaporean father, 35, is now contesting a single charge of molesting the girl sometime between July and November 2018 when she was about 12 years old.

He cannot be named due to a court order to protect her identity.

He is accused of pulling up her shirt and performing a sex act while she was wearing a virtual reality headset in his bedroom. 

He faces four other charges of molesting her between July 2018 and December 2020. These charges have been stood down for the purposes of the trial.

The girl, who is now 15, testified as a prosecution witness behind closed doors when the trial began in January. Members of the public and media were not allowed to attend.

NOT TOLD FOR YEARS HE WAS HER FATHER

On Thursday, when questioned by his defence counsel Ashwin Ganapathy from IRB Law, the accused told the court that he knew he was the father of the alleged victim only when she was eight years old.

He had dated her mother, who is now his wife, but lost contact with the woman until they met again at a bowling alley in 2014. That was when she told him that they had had a child together, he testified.

“I felt angry because she didn’t come looking for me and tell me that I have a daughter… I felt sad because I couldn’t raise my daughter,” he said.

The little girl “came running towards me and hugged me” during their first meeting, which shocked him because her mother had said that she was “very shy”, he added.

“I told myself, knowing I already have a daughter, I wanted to take care of her. I wanted to raise her and start a family together.”

He then tied the knot with his wife in 2014 and they later had two other children — another girl, now aged seven, and a boy now aged five.

The family initially stayed with his wife’s parents in a Bukit Batok flat before moving to another flat nearby around end-2018.

When his father-in-law was sent to prison and later died, his mother-in-law — who works as a cleaner — came to live with them as well.

GIRL STOLE MONEY, LIED TO PARENTS

The accused told the court that he shared a very close relationship with the alleged victim from 2014 to 2017. “Basically, she was the apple of my eye. Whatever she wants, I will get it for her.”

However, he added that things started going downhill around 2017 to 2018 and got “much worse” from 2019 onwards.

He said that he had to scold her more frequently because she lied to him and his wife, did not go home straight from school, and hung out with a friend who was a bad influence on her.

For example, she eventually confessed to stealing about S$200 to $300 from her grandmother when he and his wife pressed her about it.

His various disciplinary actions included asking her to do more household chores, confiscating her mobile phone, scolding her, slapping her and hitting her with a cane.

The girl also raised her voice at her mother and grandmother when he was not home, he added.

He said that she would sometimes cry when he scolded her, but ignore him at times. “Basically, she will just show her attitude. When I slap her, she will cry and go inside the room.”

On another occasion, he punched her in the abdomen after growing “very, very angry” at her for running away from home. She kept quiet and cried, he added.

The last time he could recall disciplining the girl was a few days before his arrest on Jan 15, 2020. He and his wife found out that she was hanging out with friends after school instead of going straight home.

He slapped her face twice and told her that he would take away her privileges, including removing her from the school’s basketball team and banning her from going to camp when she was in Secondary 2.

She cried and kept silent once more, he said.

The family had also installed a camera in the common room to monitor the girl and communicate with her through a specific function, because she did not have a mobile phone in her younger years.

The accused testified that he believed his wife would receive a notification if the camera was turned off, but he was not fully sure about that.

His lawyer, Mr Ganapathy, then showed him a virtual reality headset, which he said was identical to the one he had impulsively bought from e-marketplace Carousell for S$10 to S$12.

He said that he had forbidden his daughter from trying it on because it would ruin her vision, and stored it in a box in his bedroom.

'SHOCKED AND VERY SAD'

When questioned about Jan 15, 2020, the day she made the police report and also the day he was arrested, the accused said that he felt “shocked” and “very sad” upon learning of the allegations. He maintained that he did not touch her inappropriately or molest her.

He told police officers that he had recently disciplined her for coming home late, which was likely why she made the claims against him. He confirmed with the court on Thursday that he still stood by this reason, among others.

He testified that the past two years of being physically separated from his children had been “very difficult on me”, and that he “breaks down quite a lot” at work and during his motorcycle rides.

He was charged in September 2020. As part of his bail conditions, he was ordered not to directly or indirectly contact his wife or the alleged victim.

However, he said on Thursday that he occasionally sent phone text messages to his wife to ask about their children and her well-being.

At one point, he began sobbing on the stand as he recounted how a fire recently broke out at his housing block. He had moved out a while ago to live with his sister in accordance with the bail conditions.

When he got there, he saw the girl with a police officer at the foot of the block.

He testified: “She turned and looked at me. I saw her crying, so that’s when I just ran to her and hugged her.

“The first words she said were ‘Daddy, I’m scared'. For that few seconds, I just hugged her and comforted her. I hugged her tight and said everything is okay.”

He added that he was aware of the bail conditions but that he could not help but comfort her, seeing her “very frightened and traumatised” state.

The trial continues on Friday with Deputy Public Prosecutor Sarah Siaw cross-examining him. His wife and mother-in-law will also testify in his defence.

Those convicted of molesting a minor under 14 can be jailed for up to five years, fined, caned, or punished with any combination of the three.

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