Singapore

Man jailed for molesting three stepdaughters aged 11 to 15

Family did not lodge a report initially, but offences came to light when police were alerted to an argument

Three sisters thought they had found a father figure when their mother got married in late 2013.

But about a year later, the man started molesting the sisters, who were between 11 and 15 years old at the time.

Two of them confided in each other in 2017 and their mother found out about their ordeal. But they did not make a police report.

The offences were eventually exposed in 2019 after the police were alerted to a heated argument between the couple.

District Judge Eddy Tham convicted the man, 53, of three counts of molestation after a trial and sentenced him yesterday to two years and eight months' jail.

As the man is above 50 and cannot be caned, he was given an additional 18 weeks in jail.

He cannot be named to protect the victims' identities.

During the trial, the youngest victim testified that the man was initially "nice" to her and added: "He would always... (bring) us food... like a father."

But this impression changed when he molested her in her room some time between 2014 and 2015 , she told Judge Tham.

She said she kept her distance from the man thereafter but kept silent about her ordeal because she feared her mother would be "unhappy" if the man and her broke up.

Her older sisters also testified that the man had molested them.

Deputy Public Prosecutor Sruthi Boppana said the mother found out about the offences in 2017 when she "chanced upon a conversation" between the two younger girls. She broached the issue with her three daughters a few weeks later and they told her what happened.

The DPP said they decided "to keep the matter within the family in a bid to keep the family unit intact".

The man did not molest the girls again, but "the incidents of molest remained a bugbear that would resurface during (the mother's) quarrels with the accused," the DPP said.

"Throughout 2018, (the woman) recalled that her interactions with the accused were limited... They quarrelled often, especially about his drinking habit, and (she) would then bring up the incidents of molest again."

On Feb 11, 2019, the couple were quarrelling when someone, possibly a neighbour, alerted the police. When officers turned up at their home, the mother told them what the man had done to her daughters.

The man, who was represented by lawyer Luo Ling Ling, denied molesting the girls.

During the trial, he claimed their mother "wanted to use the police case as leverage in their ongoing divorce proceedings".

The man, who intends to appeal against his conviction and sentence, was offered bail of $20,000 yesterday.

Those convicted of molesting a child below 14 can be jailed for up to five years, fined and caned.

This article first appeared in The Straits Times.

COURT & CRIME