About two years later, he forced himself on the teenager and raped her.
She was so traumatised that she tried to kill herself by drinking bleach solution and soap powder.
Even as the niece was ill and vomiting, the uncle, desperate to save his own skin, told his wife not to take the girl to a hospital as it could lead to a police report and expose his heinous acts.
The aunt took the girl to a private clinic instead and later gave her $50 to keep her quiet.
Yesterday, the 54-year-old food stall operator pleaded guilty to four counts of sexually assaulting, molesting and raping his niece.
But, instead of owning up to his depravity during mitigation, he tried to blame his niece for seducing him. She was then just 12 and, as the prosecution said, still bears the psychological scars of her ordeal.
Justice Lee Seiu Kin sentenced the man to 20 years' jail.
We are not naming anyone because of a gag order to protect the girl's identity.
CONFUSED AND AFRAID
The sexual abuse began in 2010 when the girl, then 12, spent the night in her uncle's HDB flat in the east.
She was sleeping on a mattress in the master bedroom when she was awoken by a sharp pain.
When she opened her eyes, she saw her uncle beside her and realised that he had sexually assaulted her with his finger.
She pushed his hand away but kept quiet because she was confused and afraid.
In July 2012, the accused and his family moved in with the girl's family, having paid for renovations for their HDB flat in the north.
Sometime that year, the girl was in her kitchen when he approached her from behind and groped her.
She pushed his hands away but did not say anything as she was alarmed and embarrassed.
Undeterred, he touched her inappropriately again before walking away.
On Dec 20 that year, the girl was at home alone with her uncle and aunt.
Noticing that his wife was asleep in the master bedroom, he approached the girl who was sitting on a sofa in the living room.
He stood in front of her, pulled down his boxers, took her hands and made her perform a sex act on him.
He then ordered her to perform oral sex on him. She refused, shook her head and leaned away, but he forced her to do it.
After that, he yanked her shorts and underwear down and raped her.
He stopped after hearing noise in the master bedroom. When he pulled up his boxers and went to check, the girl quickly put her clothes back on.
Realising his wife was still asleep, he returned to the living room and raped his niece again.
When he stopped after hearing another noise in the master bedroom, the girl took the chance to grab her mobile phone and fled the flat.
She ran to a staircase landing and, while sobbing, phoned her sister's friend and told her that her uncle had done "nonsense things" to her.
She later returned to the flat and drank a cup of water, bleach solution and soap powder.
Her vomiting attracted the attention of her uncle and aunt, who forced open her room door.
The court heard that the aunt decided to take the girl to a private clinic.
She did not tell the doctor her niece had consumed bleach, only that she was unwell, and the girl was allowed to return home.
A few days later, the aunt, knowing what had transpired between her husband and niece, gave $50 to the girl, claiming it was from a relative. She also asked the girl for another chance to "protect her".
The niece agreed to keep quiet as she felt sorry for her aunt and did not want to cause problems for the family.
But the incidents came to light after the girl was questioned by her school counsellor on why she had been absent from school in January 2013.
GAVE IN TO DESIRES
Yesterday, the uncle admitted to two counts of sexual assault by penetration, one count of outrage of modesty and one count of rape. Three other charges were also taken into consideration for sentencing.
He said in mitigation that he was sorry for what he had done, but claimed his niece had seduced him.
The man, who did not have a lawyer, submitted a written mitigation plea in which he said that he should have reprimanded his niece for seducing him.
He claimed that what he did was not intentional as he could not control his desires.
He said the girl had behaved inappropriately, such as touching his leg during a hospital visit.
"She was very young but her actions were not like a young child," he said.
Justice Lee said he also received four letters pleading for leniency for the accused.
One of them was from Pasir Ris-Punggol MP Janil Puthucheary, on behalf of the accused's son.
He said the accused was suffering from a medical condition and that the family needed him for financial support.
Justice Lee also read out letters from the accused's wife, son and daughter, all of them described him as a responsible person and the family breadwinner.
The accused's daughter, who turned up in court yesterday morning, said in her letter that she was due to sit for her O-Level chemistry paper later in the day but wanted to show her support for her father.
In sentencing, Justice Lee said the man had violated the trust of a young girl and left her with deep emotional wounds to the extent that she attempted suicide.
VICTIM NOW FEARS MEN, HAS TRUST ISSUES
Her uncle was a father-figure but he abused the position of trust by using his niece as a sexual plaything, Deputy Public Prosecutor Sharmila Sripathy-Shanaz said in her submissions yesterday.
She said the campaign of sexual abuse - seven occasions over two years - also showed a lack of remorse by the accused.
DPP Sharmila added that the offences were not based on impulse but conscious, deliberate and opportunistic offending.
Most significantly, the sexual abuse left the girl with devastating psychological harm and trauma, she said.
The girl now fears men and has difficulty trusting others, she said.
DPP Sharmila also read out an excerpt from the victim impact statement, which quoted the girl as saying: "It has been almost two years since the incident but I am still scared to get close to boys...
"When the boys (in my class) joke and play and touch me, I feel disgusted.
"I dare not be friendly with the boys because it reminds me of what my uncle did to me."
The DPP added that the girl had to go for therapy as she kept having nightmares.
LAWYERS: NOT REPORTING A CRIME IS AN OFFENCE
Knowing about a crime and not reporting it is an offence, said criminal lawyers contacted by The New Paper.
Yesterday, a man was jailed for 20 years for raping, sexually assaulting and molesting his niece between 2010 and 2012.
The court was told that his wife knew what he had done but helped him cover up his crime after his victim tried to kill herself by drinking bleach solution.
He told her not to take the vomiting girl to a hospital as he feared it could lead to a police report and expose his crime. So she took the girl to a private clinic instead.
She later gave $50 to the girl to keep her quiet.
Lawyer Gloria James said not reporting a crime could be seen as an attempt to alter the course of justice.
Under the penal code, it is an offence by a person, who is bound to inform, to deliberately omit giving information of an offence.
But criminal lawyer Rajan Supramaniam said that whether the wife had committed an offence depends on how much she knew about the incident.
"She didn't witness the rape and the information came from her husband. Even so, it's unclear how much she knew or how much she was told," he said.
But she would have committed an offence if she had lied or withheld information from the police, he said.
"Not reporting the incident may have been morally wrong, but legally it's on a case-by-case basis," he said.
The attacks came to light only after the girl confided in her school counsellor, who made a police report.
Dr Ken Ung, a consultant psychiatrist at Adam Road Medical Centre, said the counsellor did the right thing.
The report allowed the necessary investigations to take place and for the girl to receive the proper care and treatment after suffering trauma.
"It is the call of duty of any counsellor or health professional to report what happened to protect children, even if it's just a suspicion," he said.
This article was first published on October 27, 2015.
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