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'If they hit him any more, he would die'

VULNERABLE: Daniel was only two when he succumbed to the injuries sustained from a prolonged period of torture.


    Jun 27, 2016

    'If they hit him any more, he would die'

    DANIEL was two years old and a brave boy. Even as he was slapped, stomped on, pinched and abused repeatedly by his own mother and her boyfriend, he did not cry.

    And neighbours had little clue Mohamad Daniel Mohamad Nasser was being abused.

    On Nov 23, 2015, his little body, peppered with marks and injuries he had sustained from a prolonged period of torture, gave up.

    And even though he died, his caregiver, the woman he called "Mak" (mother in Malay) showed no remorse in court.

    Cleaners Zaidah, 41, and her boyfriend, Zaini Jamari, 46, were found guilty and will be sentenced on July 5.

    One woman who tried to help Daniel is filled with regret.

    Puspawati Abdul Razat, 51, is wheelchair-bound after a stroke four years ago.

    She regarded Daniel as her grandson and he would call her "nenek" (grandmother in Malay).

    Daniel and his family lived with her, cramped into a one-room rental flat. Ms Puspawati's teenage niece also lived there.

    She said that she tried to help protect Daniel from the savagery he suffered but she was afraid. Her immobility also prevented her from calling for help sooner.

    "I tried to help him countless times, but I couldn't get up or go to a private place to call the police. I even fell while trying to protect Daniel once," she said.

    "I would tell them enough is enough; if they hit him any more, he would die."

    Daniel's mother and her boyfriend were always around, and Ms Puspawati had little opportunity to call for help during the 20 days of hell Daniel endured.

    "Even when Daniel was unconscious, his mother was reluctant to call for help. I had to fight to call the ambulance," she recalled.

    The Ministry of Social and Family Development's (MSF's) Child Protective Service received 2,022 reports and inquiries about child abuse last year. Of these, it investigated 551 that were instances of serious abuse.

    This was an increase of about 40 per cent in serious child abuse cases, compared with the same period from 2012 to 2014.

    In a Facebook post, MSF Minister Tan Chuan-Jin said it was heartbreaking to read about Daniel's case.

    "It pains me to know that things could have turned out very differently, if only someone had sounded the alarm earlier."

    Gleneagles Hospital psychiatrist Lim Boon Leng said people are reluctant to make assumptions about what happens in another home.

    "Neighbours might think it is just some shouting, that the parents are disciplining their children. They have no idea the child might be abused."

    There is also the fear that families can be torn apart if these reports are made, said Singapore Children Society's senior director for youth services, Carol Balhetchet.

    Jenny Leong, 64, lived next door to Daniel.

    "I heard a child crying in the middle of the night once but I never asked what happened because it was so late... I didn't want them to think I was being a 'kaypoh' (busybody)."