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Mum ‘indebted’ to teacher for helping family, then ‘betrayed’ when he allegedly molested her 12-year-old son

SINGAPORE — Her 12-year-old son’s primary school teacher had grown to be like a family member, lending her money on several occasions and even taking on the role as the boy’s guardian. However, the single mother of four began noticing that something was amiss.

  • A primary school teacher is accused of molesting a boy three times in 2017
  • He allegedly committed the offences after the boy had moved on to secondary school
  • The boy’s mother testified that she treated the accused like family
  • He would lend her money for household expenses
  • In court, the mother got emotional, saying she felt “indebted” to the accused

 

SINGAPORE — Her 12-year-old son’s primary school teacher had grown to be like a family member, lending her money on several occasions and even taking on the role as the boy’s guardian.

However, the single mother of four began noticing that something was amiss. When she returned home one day, she saw the man hugging the boy who was sitting on his lap. 

Before this, her supervisor had told her that she had seen the man hugging and kissing the boy while her son similarly sat on his lap at the void deck of the public housing block where they lived.

Things eventually came to a head when her son confided in his mother that his teacher was allegedly molesting him.

These details emerged on Monday (Feb 22) as the 55-year-old mother testified for the first time during the molestation trial, which began in August last year.  

The 35-year-old Singaporean teacher cannot be named due to a court order to protect the boy’s identity.

He has been suspended from service since July 2017 and no longer teaches in any school.

He allegedly molested or tried to molest the boy three times on June 15 and 16 in 2017, including touching his crotch and putting his hand into the boy’s underwear.

CLAIMED HE HAD A DREAM

On Monday, the boy’s mother, who works as a cleaner, told the court that she was the family’s sole breadwinner. The boy was the youngest of her four sons and she had been divorced four times.

The man became the boy’s form teacher in 2016, when he was in Primary 6. 

Later that year, the man proposed holding a surprise birthday party for the boy at home, where he gifted him a cake and a toy. In August that year, the boy’s mother also invited him to her son’s baptism ceremony.

Towards the end of the year, the man “started to claim that he dreamt of Jesus”. 

She said: “His dream was very scary. It was like a disaster where he told me Jesus wants (the boy) to be his godson and he heard (the boy) calling him: ‘Daddy, daddy’.”

She told the court that she responded jokingly: “You are young, handsome and well-educated. Why don’t you settle down and get your own flesh and blood, not (the boy)?”

His expression turned unhappy, she added.

BOUGHT THE BOY MOBILE PHONE, CLOTHES

When 2017 rolled around, the teacher was going over to the boy’s home “almost every day” to give him tuition lessons. The boy was in secondary school at this point.

The man would leave around 10pm when the mother returned home from work.

“He is like one of our family… He gave tuition, subsidised pocket money to school, bought stuff like clothing and a handphone,” she added.

He occasionally drove the boy to school and took him home every day.

He lent the mother money for utility bills, groceries and medical bills for one of her other sons, who suffered from depression.

Bank records tendered to the court showed that he transferred sums of between S$100 and S$500 to her bank account on several occasions from January to June 2017.

The boy had grown close to the man and her own relationship with the boy had deteriorated because she was always working and returning home late, she said.

During the first school term, she noticed the man’s name written under the “guardian” heading in the boy’s report book. 

The man had also signed the report book and filled in a column meant for parents to comment about their child’s results. He then told her that he had attended a teacher-parent meeting on her behalf.

She kept silent as she felt “indebted” to him and did not want him to feel offended, but felt “very sad” about this.

Another time, her son told her that the man had given him a bank card to use whenever he liked.

She testified that she scolded her son for this, and that he and the man had quarrelled after the boy used the card to buy a teddy bear for his girlfriend.

‘WHY DID HE DO THIS?’

One evening, the boy’s mother returned home from work and saw him sitting on the man’s lap in the living room.

“At that moment, I already don’t feel good,” the mother said while sobbing, “because my supervisor had ever told me she saw (my son) sitting on (the man’s) lap at the void deck and he was hugging and kissing at, like, his neck, ears, cheek and mouth.”

When Deputy Public Prosecutor Lim Ying Min asked her why she was getting emotional, she replied: “I told you, I don’t want him to be offended, I was indebted… I trusted him so much. Why did he do this?”

On June 15, 2017, she allowed the boy to go over to the man’s place for a sleepover. She testified that her son convinced her to let him go and told her that he had already promised the man.

Her son called later, signalling that he was not okay, but the man interrupted the conversation and the call ended there. She could not fetch her son back because she did not know where the man lived.

The next day, the son told her that the man had molested him. She then told him to ignore the man’s calls and only reply through text messages so that they could get evidence.

She saw some of the messages that read “I love you” and “I miss you”, she testified.

When school reopened on June 27, the boy’s school counsellor called to ask if she was aware of the molestation. However, she asked the school to delay reporting the matter to the police because she was facing family issues and had already planned to meet the man.

Earlier in the trial, another teacher had testified about seeing the boy and man act inappropriately in public. She then submitted a formal report to the boy’s school.  

Under cross-examination by the man’s lawyer, Mr Kalaithasan Karuppaya, the mother told the court that her son’s grades and willingness to attend school had improved under the man’s care. He had even accompanied her to visit another of her sons who was in remand.

Towards the end of the hearing, the mother grew emotional again when testifying about the man’s bank card, sobbing into a handful of tissue paper. 

However, she insisted on continuing, raising her voice and reiterating: “I trust this man so much. I took him as part of my family and he betrayed me.”

District Judge John Ng adjourned the trial until Tuesday.

If convicted of molesting a minor, the teacher could be jailed up to five years, fined, caned, or be penalised with all three.

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