Parents on trial for son's murder: Cage edges could have caused facial lacerations on abused boy
5-year-old, who was confined to pet cage among other alleged abuses, likely died of multi-organ failure: Pathologist
A silver rectangular metal cage – the kind sold in pet shops – sat in the middle of the courtroom. Measuring 91cm long, 58cm wide and 70cm tall, it was meant for the family cat.
Instead, it was allegedly used to confine a 1.05m-tall boy in the family's one-room rental flat.
This was just one of the many horrors the five-year-old allegedly endured under the hands of his biological parents.
He was also repeatedly pinched with pliers on the buttocks and thighs, hit on the head, hands and legs with objects such as a broom, and was scalded with near-boiling water.
When the boy eventually collapsed and was admitted to KK Women's and Children's Hospital, it was discovered that he had a multitude of injuries such as acute kidney injury, multiple facial lacerations, a nasal bone fracture and a major burn injury covering a large part of his total body area.
Despite the best efforts of the hospital to save the young life, the boy died on Oct 23, 2016, a day after he was admitted.
His father, Ridzuan Mega Abdul Rahman, and mother, Azlin Arujunah, both 27, are now on trial for his murder. They also face other charges such as ill-treating a child.
Yesterday, in the second day of the trial, Dr Chan Shijia, the forensic pathologist from the Health Sciences Authority who performed the boy's autopsy, said the sharp edges of the cage could have caused lacerations on the boy's face and scalp when he moved around while being confined.
Dr Chan also told the court the victim showed signs of multi-organ failure.
In pictures shown in court, the skin on the boy's chest and abdomen were patchy, and the skin on his entire back, up to his buttocks, was reddish and raw, which could be indicative of a recent burn.
There were also signs of infection from the burns.
Describing these injuries as a partial thickness burn, also referred to as second-degree burns, Dr Chan said: "It involves the nerves, and it will be very painful as it goes to the blood vessels."
She explained that when people die shortly after scald injuries, it is usually because of multi-organ failure, where the injuries lead to water loss, infection, and the blood pressure dropping.
There was also extensive bleeding under his scalp, and the blunt force craniofacial trauma that resulted in bleeding would have affected the victim's general health and thus his ability to fight against his scald injuries.
There was internal bleeding under the skin on his legs as well.
Dr Chan also noted that he had a torn upper frenulum - the thin tissue between the lips and the gum, which could have been caused by a direct force to the face and mouth area.
The victim's nasal bone had been fractured, and there were fractures around his nose. There was also oval-shaped scarring on his leg.
When the autopsy pictures were shown in court, Ridzuan kept his head down while Azlin looked elsewhere.
Both remained expressionless throughout the entire court hearing.
The court also heard that the victim had a history of iron deficiency, and an analysis of the cells in his lungs after the autopsy indicated there were signs of pneumonia.
The prosecution alleged on Tuesday that the boy had been scalded with hot water multiple times. Between Oct 15 and 22, Azlin allegedly scalded him on three occasions and Ridzuan allegedly did so twice.
On Oct 21, Azlin allegedly chased the victim around the living room, throwing about 10 cups of hot water at him.
Ridzuan allegedly poured hot water on him on Oct 22, after which he collapsed and became unresponsive.
Yesterday, Azlin's defence lawyer Terence Tan asked Dr Chan: "If the burns had been so severe, would (the victim) be able to run around the living room?"
Dr Chan said it is possible when someone fears for his life.
Ridzuan's defence lawyer, Mr Eugene Thuraisingam, later argued it would not be possible to say which injuries on which day were sufficient to cause the boy's death, and asked if there was a possibility that he might have had pneumonia before he was admitted into hospital.
The trial continues.