Caregiver: How could mum abuse her own son to death?
Mohamad Daniel Mohamad Nasser, two, died at the hands of his mother and her boyfriend on Nov 23, last year. TNP spoke to Daniel's caregiver of more than two years and she said she is struggling to forgive them for what they had done.
She may not have given birth to little Daniel, but she can justifiably claim to know him better, and love him more, than his own mother.
After all, Madam Masita Hussin, 51, was his main caregiver for two years and seven months of his brief life.
Tragically, his own mother was one of two people who made his life a living hell until his death on Nov 23 last year, a month short of his third birthday.
Zaidah, 41, was sentenced to 11 years' jail yesterday and her boyfriend, Zaini Jamari, 46, to 10 years' jail and 12 strokes of the cane for causing Mohamad Daniel Mohamad Nasser's death after a month of sustained abuse.
The two cleaners had earlier each pleaded guilty to one count of voluntarily causing grievous hurt to Daniel and three counts of ill-treating him.
Madam Masita told The New Paper that the loss of Daniel, whom she cherished as one of her own children, has made this Hari Raya Aidilfitri a solemn occasion.
Instead of joining in the festivities, she will stay home to mourn his passing.
And instead of dressing him up in a new baju kurung, as in previous years (see picture on Page 1), she will visit his grave at Lim Chu Kang Muslim Cemetery this morning to recite him a silent prayer. Madam Masita, who is diabetic and moves around in a wheelchair, broke down more than five times as she spoke about Daniel in her one-room rental flat in Yishun last Monday.
The housewife took him in when he was just a month old to care for him. And when he learnt to speak, he called her ibu, which is "mother" in Malay.
Madam Masita, who has three grown-up children between 19 and 29 years old, and a two-year-old grandson, said she had longed to care for a toddler again.
"I love children and kids bring joy wherever they go. So I asked around if anybody knew of any children who needed looking after."
One of her friends, Ms Puspawati Abdul Razat, 50, told her about Zaidah and Daniel. They were then living in a cramped storeroom at an industrial building in Ubi Road, hardly a suitable place to raise an infant.
Madam Masita immediately agreed to be Daniel's "guardian" and Zaidah handed over her baby in January 2013.
She said: "Zaidah seemed so sweet and polite when we first met. Daniel was swaddled in a blanket and was healthy.
"I was overjoyed to receive him. Zaidah also promised to pay me $250 a month for taking care of her son. But I didn't care about the money. I just wanted to care for the boy."
Without her knowledge, Zaidah and Zaini later moved into Ms Puspawati's one-room rental flat at Block 19, Telok Blangah Crescent.
Madam Masita said Zaidah initially visited Daniel at her home about once a month and to pay her.
But the visits became less frequent over time and the payments became less regular as well.
Madam Masita said she never asked Zaidah to pay her what was due because she was happy to care for Daniel for free.
She said: "He was such a cute boy, very well-behaved, and I doted on him. He never asked for toys, but we bought them for him anyway because we loved him to bits.
"We threw a party to celebrate his first birthday and invited Zaidah, but she did not come. I don't know anything about her family background."
REFUSED TO LEAVE
She added: "When Zaidah did show up, she would take Daniel home on Friday afternoon and return him on Sunday evening. I'd tell him she was his mummy.
"But he looked terrified whenever she appeared at my doorstep and refused to go towards her. We had to persuade him to go out with his mother."
In August last year, Ms Puspawati told Madam Masita that Zaidah wanted her son back because she had stopped working and could care for him.
"I was devastated, but I knew that I had to give him back. Daniel refused to leave with her, and I had to coax him. I didn't know where they went after that. I wasn't aware they were living with Puspawati."
Madam Masita and her family tried to contact Zaidah so they could visit Daniel, but she had changed her phone number and their Facebook messages went unanswered.
After they put up a Facebook post looking for Daniel, Ms Yusnita Mohamed Idrus, 41, who said she was his babysitter, replied to Madam Masita's second son, Mr Irwan Shah Kasim, 21.
Last September, she took him to their flat for a tearful reunion.
Madam Masita said: "I don't know why Zaidah refused to let me see Daniel. The visit lasted only a few hours, but I was overjoyed to see him. It was the last time I saw him alive."
Mr Irwan was at home on Nov 23 last year when a tearful Ms Yusnita called to say that Daniel had died after being abused by Zaidah and Zaini.
He said: "I couldn't believe my ears and immediately broke down. It seemed unreal, and I passed the phone to my mother."
Madam Masita said between sobs: "I almost fainted when I received the terrible news. When Daniel was with me, even one mosquito bite was enough to make me worried. I was hysterical and the days that followed passed by in a blur."
Yesterday, after the couple were sentenced, Madam Masita cried as she clutched Daniel's favourite pair of shoes and pacifier which she had kept to remember him by.
She told TNP outside court: "I didn't expect them to abuse him so badly. What kind of mother was she to do that to her own child? Even animals wouldn't do that to their young. If she did not want him, she could have just returned him to me."
She finds it very hard to forgive Zaidah and Zaini.
"We Muslims believe in the afterlife. When we meet again one day, I hope that Daniel will still remember me - his ibu who loves him very much," she added.
When Zaidah came, she would take Daniel out on Friday afternoon and return him on Sunday evening. I'd tell him she was his mummy. But he looked terrified whenever she appeared at my doorstep and refused to come towards her. We had to persuade him to go out with his mother.
- Housewife Masita Hussin, who took care of Daniel for most of his short life
LITTLE DANIEL'S LAST DAY
Two-year-old Daniel was abused for about a month until his death on Nov 23 last year. This is what happened to him the day before, based on court papers:
Between 10am and noon, Daniel refused to eat when his mother Zaidah tried to feed him.
She slapped his face thrice and passed the bowl of food to Zaini.
As Daniel still refused to eat, they slapped him.
Zaidah hit his back until he fell. When he did not get up, she forcefully stamped on his chest.
She yanked his left arm to make him stand. Daniel swallowed about three spoonfuls of food and refused to eat any more. She ordered him to stand in a corner.
At about 8pm, he was made to stand near the bed. When the tired toddler rested his hand on the bed frame, Zaidah slapped his face several times. Zaini joined in.
DPP Poh said: "The deceased then lay down on the floor and closed his eyes. (Zaini) then took him to the refrigerator and force-fed him two spoonfuls of dried chilli.
"As the deceased was still weak and did not respond, (Zaini) took him to the toilet and washed his mouth. He then punished the deceased again by making him stand in the living room."
Daniel was still standing about 45 minutes later. He was so tired, he almost fainted.
When Zaidah saw this, she shouted at him, pinched his body and cheeks. She slapped him several times. She thought Daniel was pretending to be weak and told Zaini, who also slapped him several times.
When a blow missed and landed on his daughter, Zaidah got angry. She kicked Daniel's chest and stomach several times.
Zaini also kicked his stomach, and the boy hit his head on the floor when he fell.
Zaini then forced dried chilli down his throat, causing mucus to flow from his nose. He took the toddler to the toilet and washed his face, and ordered him to sleep.
The next morning, he tried to wake Daniel, but he was motionless. He alerted Zaidah. They tried to rouse the boy, but failed.
Ms Puspawati and her niece called an ambulance and Daniel was taken to Singapore General Hospital. He was pronounced dead about an hour later.