Man on trial for murder of stepdaughter, 4, who urinated on floor

Wan Ting Koh
·4 min read
A girl crouching in the dark.
A girl crouching in the dark. (PHOTO: Getty Images)

SINGAPORE — Angered that his four-year-old stepdaughter had urinated on the floor instead of the toilet bowl, a man allegedly hit her in the stomach before kicking her while she lay on the ground.

Nursabrina Agustiani Abdullah died the next morning from the assault. Her cause of death was determined to be from extensive intra-abdominal bleeding.

Her stepfather, Muhammad Salihin Ismail, claimed trial on Tuesday (2 February) to a charge of murder arising from the two incidents of assault on 1 September 2018. His charge states that he committed murder by causing bodily injury which was sufficient in the ordinary cause of nature to cause Nursabrina’s death.

He also faces one charge each of causing hurt to and ill-treating Nursabrina. The charges were stood down for now after Salihin’s lawyer, Syazana Yahya, successfully argued against having her client tried for all charges simultaneously.

Salihin’s stood down charges accuse him of placing a shower head emitting hot water on Nursabrina’s back for five to six seconds, scalding her back in 2017, and slamming her head against the floor in early 2018.

Opening their case on Tuesday (2 February), Deputy Public Prosecutors Senthilkumaran Sabapathy and Lim Yu Hui said that Salihin was only released from the army’s detention barracks in February 2017 and “within over a year-and-a-half after (Nursabrina) came under his care, she was dead.”

Salihin, a 28-year-old Singaporean, married the victim’s mother, 24-year-old Syabilla Syamien Riyadi, on 31 August 2016, when Nursabrina was two years old.

The toddler regarded Salihin as her father and called him “papa”. Apart from Nursabrina, the couple also had two twin boys. The family moved into a rental flat in the first half of 2018.

In September 2018, the couple tried to toilet-train Nursabrina in preparation for school, which would begin later that month, said the prosecution in an opening statement.

On 1 September 2018, Salihin was left alone with the twin boys and Nursabrina while Syabilla was at work. At about 10am, Salihin saw a puddle of urine on the floor outside the toilet and realised his stepdaughter was the cause of it.

Angered, he called the girl over and placed her on the toilet bowl. While she sat there, he hit her in the stomach a few times with his fist.

Later that afternoon, when the girl wanted to go to the toilet, Salihin asked her to go by herself. She did so but Salihin later found that she had urinated on the floor in front of the toilet bowl.

He called her over and began questioning her, before pushing her on the shoulder and causing her to fall. While she lay sideways on the ground, Salihin kicked her twice in the stomach, causing her to cry, said the prosecution.

Salihin then allegedly placed her on the toilet bowl again and drove his fist into her stomach a few times. He left her in the toilet afterwards.

That evening, after Syabilla returned home, her daughter complained of stomach pain while eating dinner. She began vomiting from that moment until the next morning, despite Syabilla’s attempt to apply ointment on her stomach.

On 2 September 2018, Salihin helped Nursabrina to vomit before the girl became unconscious. He tried unsuccessfully to resuscitate her before telling Syabilla to call for the ambulance, as Nursabrina was no longer breathing.

The girl was later pronounced dead at Ng Teng Fong General Hospital at 10.12am on 2 September 2018. The hospital reported her death and Salihin was arrested the next day.

A psychiatrist who assessed and interviewed Salihin on three occasions determined that he did not suffer from any mental disorder or illness in a report dated 9 October 2018. The psychiatrist also assessed that Salihin was aware of the nature and wrongfulness of his actions, and would have been able to control his emotions but chose to give in to his anger.

Two paramedics who tended to Nursabrina testified on Tuesday that an Automated External Defibrillator was applied on the girl.

Syazana asked the paramedics if there was a difference between performing cardiopulmonary resuscitation (CPR) on a child compared with an adult, and both replied affirmatively.

The defence lawyer then asked if the girl could have sustained internal bleeding if CPR meant for adults was administered to her in the wrong location, and one paramedic said it was possible.

However, under re-examination by the prosecution, the paramedic said he only noted bruising on the girl’s face.

The trial will continue on Wednesday with Syabilla expected to testify.

If convicted of murder, Salihin faces death or life imprisonment with caning.

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