Max sentences in ‘horrific case of child abuse’

Fadley Faisal

A married couple were handed jail terms, along with a caning sentence, for what was described by the High Court as the “horrific” death of their infant child, which came to light when the victim’s body was already reduced to a skeletal state.

Kassim bin Omar received 20 years’ jail and two strokes of the cane, after he pleaded guilty to culpable homicide, causing grievous hurt and not reporting the death of a person, while Siti Norzalia binti Haji Abdullah received three years’ jail for permitting child abuse and not reporting the death.

Chief Justice Dato Seri Paduka Steven Chong handed the sentences, after giving consideration to Kassim and Siti Norzalia’s acts.

“This is a horrific case of child abuse committed by a father on his infant daughter leading to her death, (and) the protection of children from ill treatment must be the first and foremost consideration of the court; and therefore a strong deterrence is required,” the Chief Justice said.

Meanwhile, the Chief Justice said that Siti Norzalia’s behaviour must be strongly condemned.

“It is said that the maternal instinct of a mother is to protect her child, even at great risk of her own well-being or life; (and) this protective nature of a mother was patently absent in Siti Norzalia when she did nothing to stop the victim from being physically abused by Kassim, although she knew he was hurting her,” the Chief Justice further noted.

The prosecution’s facts of the case, as summarised by the High Court, was that it all began in December 2017 with the premature birth of the victim, who suffered from complications since.

Kassim said that he often felt resentful at having to look after the victim and do household chores, while Siti Norzalia cared for their other children.

On May 29, 2018, the five-month-old victim woke up crying, as she needed a diaper change.

Enraged, Kassim took the victim to the bathroom, where he threw her onto the floor.

The victim’s head hit the floor and she appeared to stiffen for a while, before her cries resumed.

Kassim picked up the infant and cleaned her. He brought her back to the bedroom, where he threw her down again, causing her head to hit the bed frame.

He then left the victim to cry alone.

After several hours, Kassim unsuccessfully tried to feed the victim, who was quiet and inactive by then.

The couple tried performing CPR on the victim, but she was not breathing.

When Siti Norzalia suggested that they bring the victim to the hospital, Kassim disagreed, as he feared being suspected of child abuse.

Kassim said that he would bury the victim, and his wife agreed.

However, in the early hours of the following day, instead of burying the victim, the couple wrapped the body in plastic and clothing, which they placed in a container and then inside a bag.

They carried the bag to the back of the house, where it was put into the storeroom.

The couple told family members that they had given up the victim for adoption.

The victim’s death was only discovered about a year later, on September 12, 2019, when Siti Norzalia’s mother lodged a police report on spousal abuse, after noticing a bruise on her daughter’s eye.

The mother also informed the police that her daughter had been giving conflicting accounts, as to the whereabouts of the victim.

Police arrested Kassim, who led them to the victim’s body in the storeroom at the back of the house in Kampong Salambigar.

An autopsy report established the injuries which the victim had suffered, leading to her death.

During investigations conducted by the Special Investigations Unit police, Kassim also admitted that only two weeks before her death, he had pressed the victim’s abdomen forcefully, causing her ribs to fracture.

Siti Norzalia admitted that she had failed to protect her child from her husband’s physical abuse.

Deputy Public Prosecutor Hajah Suriana binti Haji Radin and Prosecutor Kamal Ariffin bin Ismail represented the Public Prosecutor in the case.