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Mum who pushed son out of window gets 10 years’ jail

SINGAPORE — Feeling stressed out as she had been unemployed for some time and was financially dependent on her ageing mother, Rebecca Loh Chui Lai was worried about providing for her nine-year-old son.

SINGAPORE — Feeling stressed out as she had been unemployed for some time and was financially dependent on her ageing mother, Rebecca Loh Chui Lai was worried about providing for her nine-year-old son.

Believing that the authorities would remove him from her care if she injured him badly enough, Loh, who has schizophrenia, pushed her son out of the window of their fifth-floor flat, causing him to plunge to his death.

For this, Loh, who has shown flashes of violent behaviour in the past, was yesterday sentenced to 10 years’ jail.

Loh had pleaded guilty to one charge of culpable homicide not amounting to murder under Section 304(b) of the Penal Code, which is for an offence committed knowing that it would likely cause death but without the intention of causing death, or cause a bodily injury likely to cause death. The maximum jail term for the charge is 10 years. Loh, a single mother, was diagnosed with schizophrenia in 2006 and had been warded at the Institute of Mental Health (IMH) on several occasions. The 32-year-old was initially charged with murder.

She was determined to be mentally fit to stand trial, but the charge was later amended. Her son, Gabriel Loh Zhen Jie, was diagnosed with a liver condition shortly after his birth and suffered from osteoporosis. The court heard yesterday that Loh was remanded at IMH from Feb 24 to March 10, 2011. She had been charged after she went to a coffee shop with a chopper, thinking that a stranger had made fun of her. Two weeks before the incident, she had stopped taking her medication.

Later that year in December, Loh was admitted to IMH after she had hit her mother for not allowing her to go for a movie. She complied with follow-up treatment until April 2012, but stopped after that, saying travelling to IMH was a hindrance. She failed to keep her follow-up appointments at a community clinic. In February last year, she was admitted to IMH again after she tried to strangle her mother.

On June 1 last year, Loh carried Gabriel from the living room to the kitchen window of her mother’s flat on West Coast Road. She then lifted him onto the small ledge outside the kitchen window and pushed his hands away as he cried and held on to the bamboo clothes-drying poles. She eventually managed to dislodge his grip and he fell to the ground.

Yesterday, Deputy Public Prosecutor Eugene Lee urged the court to impose a jail term of eight to 10 years. “(Loh) needs to be incapacitated for a substantial period of time due to the high risk of her relapsing and the danger that she poses should she suffer a relapse,” he said.

The prosecution also submitted a report by an IMH psychiatrist, which stated that Loh was at a moderate to high risk of future violence and had poor insight into her mental disorder.

Lawyer Amarick Gill, who represented Loh, said this was not a classic case of culpable homicide. It involved an offender with a serious mental condition yet is of sound mind, and a victim who suffered greatly as a result of physical disabilities from birth, he said.

In sentencing yesterday, Justice Tay Yong Kwang said he had taken Loh’s history, the hope of a complete recovery and the safety of those she comes into contact with into account.

During the hearing, Loh smiled and mumbled to herself. Her family was not present.

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