Two-year-old Taiwan boy's skull split open in attack

TAIPEI - Preliminary forensic analysis suggests that a 2-year-old boy found dead in his home on Wednesday might have died from severe head injuries, instead of starving as previously thought.

The child and his 1-year-old sister were entrusted by their mother, a 17-year-old woman surnamed Peng, to a relative in Hsinchu County on July 6 for a few days. Peng's husband, surnamed Ho, left home after the couple had a fight. Peng left the children home and asked her husband's uncle to take care of the pair before heading to Taipei on the premise of finding work, according to police.

On Wednesday, Ho phoned his wife after finding his son "motionless" at home. Peng returned home to find her son laying stiff in the living room and her daughter covered in bruises. The 2-year-old boy was pronounced dead at the hospital while his sister was suffering life-threatening injuries as of press time.

Due to the lack of apparent fatal external wounds, the authorities initially suggested that the boy might have been starved to death. The uncle told police that he had only fed the children four times in nine days and did not leave the pair any water.

The Hsinchu District Prosecutors Office said yesterday that further forensic analysis revealed internal wounds in the boy's head. The victim's head sustained severe trauma that resulted in the shattering of his skull, chief prosecutor Lin Lee-chia said. Forensic experts now suspect severe intracerebral hemorrhage to be the cause of death, she said.

The prosecutors suggested that the victim might have been physically abused by the uncle. They, however, did not comment on the media speculation that the victim was thrown to the ground or at a wall.

The uncle admitted earlier to the police that he had hit the victims "a bit" but later recanted that statement.

The uncle is being held in custody pending further investigation. Peng, the mother, was detained by the Juvenile Court.

Recent child abuse cases

The 2-year-old's death is just one in a series of recent cases regarding child deaths due to alleged abuse or negligence. A 45-year-old man surrendered to police on Wednesday, two days after he apparently smothered his 22-month-old boy to death in Keelung.

The man, surnamed Lin, took his eldest son to the Taiwan Non-profit Proprietary Miners Hospital in Keelung on July 13. He told emergency medical staff that the boy's mouth and nose were accidentally covered by a heavy blanket while playing. Lin, however, fled the hospital while the medical staff were trying to resuscitate the boy.

Lin told the police that his was taking care of the boy for his second ex-wife. He pressed his body against the boy, who was hiding under a blanket after being scolded by his father, he said. He held the child covered by the blanket for 5 to 6 minutes and then left to watch TV. He only realised his son's heart had stopped two hours later, he said.

Police found that a younger daughter Lin had with his second ex-wife died in February after apparent milk regurgitation. The death was deemed an accident.

In another case, a garbage bag containing the body of a 1-year-old girl was found on a chair outside her mother's home in Hsinchu City. The mother told the police that her estranged husband took the girl back to his home on July 5. The mother said she tried but failed to take her daughter back from her husband and was shocked to find her dead outside her home. Surveillance camera footage showed the estranged husband taking the bag to his wife's home. He reportedly sent an instant message to his wife, asking her to forgive him "for what I have done" after leaving the bag at her home.

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