Photo credit: Nuria Ling/TODAY

Why was the body of a toddler found at Chin Swee Road flat only 5 years after her parents murdered her

On Tuesday (17 September), a couple was charged for murder after their two-and-a-half-year-old daughter’s body was discovered in a Chee Swee Road HDB rental flat last week.

The 31-year-old man and 30-year-old woman are the biological parents of the toddler, and they have allegedly killed the girl in March 2014. If convicted, the pair faces the death penalty.

The police found the female toddler’s remains in a metal pot last Tuesday (10 September) after they received a call for assistance at about 8.30pm, the Straits Times (ST) reported.

Chinese-language newspaper Lianhe Wanbao said that police officers left the one-room rental flat on the eight storey of the block with a mental pot and a bag.

ST added that neighbours disclosed that a week before the body was found in the unit, they smelled a strong stench – with one describing it as “something rotting” – lingering through the corridor.

If that’s not all, residents in the block also noted that a man in his 20s had be staying in the flat all by himself for the last three or four months, and a couple with a child stayed there before him, ST said.

It is understood that the man was present in the flat when the police arrived last Tuesday. However, it is not known how he is related to the couple.

The police said that the duo have been remanded since June 2018 for other unrelated offences. Court records shows that the man has three pending charges, and one of them is for rioting with four others on 5 April 2018. It is believed that he punched, kicked and used a helmet to hit another man.

In addition, he was also charged for another case where he failed to return to a community supervision centre on 13 February last year, after leave was granted for him to be hired at a food supplies company from November 2017 to April 2018.

Moreover, he allegedly also took methamphetamine, despite being admitted to the Drug Rehabilitation Centre twice before, in 2011 and 2016, for abusing drugs. The cases are still pending.

On the other hand, the woman was sentenced to five years and two months in prison for drug and theft charges on 9 September (Monday).

The couple are married and has at least three children. They are also the registered occupants of the flat where the police made the gruesome discovery. The couple’s names are not made public due to a gag order.

A spokesperson from the Ministry of Social and Family Development (MSF) told TODAY that it’s confirmed that the couple has other children, “all of whom are under stable alternative care arrangements”.

“MSF will continue to provide the necessary support to ensure the children’s safety and welfare”, noted the spokesperson.

The couple are being remanded at the Central Police Division for a week to assist in the investigations. Their case will be heard again on 24 September.

Why was the girl’s body not discovered sooner?

It is no surprise that most people will wonder why the toddler’s body was not found earlier. Her murder happened five years ago and the police only made the discovery last week.

Liew Kai Khiun, Assistant Professor at Nanyang Technological University, wrote a letter to TODAY and said that the issue that remains puzzling is the fact that the girl’s absence remained unnoticed for the last five years.

He explained that the police or Central Narcotics Bureaus should have suspected something while the couple was being investigated for their drug offences and other criminal charges.

“Or by the Health Ministry when vaccinations of the child were discontinued, and finally, the Education Ministry when the child was to have reached schooling age under the Compulsory Education Act,” he wrote.

If that’s not all, we can’t help wonder how the child’s Primary 1 registration was not checked, given that she would have been seven-and-a-half-year-old this year if she was still alive. On top of that, the investigations of the two suspects should have also revealed something suspicious as the police should have questioned them on their family background.

Why didn’t the police hear of the child from other individuals during their course of investigation?

Although Mr Liew understand that the case is still under investigation, but he pointed out that it’s obvious that this little girl had “fallen through the cracks of our system”. He also suggested that this case shows that there’s an “urgent need for otherwise separate government agencies to tighten their processes and co-ordination when it comes to handling vulnerable families and children”.