Madam Suhadah Jumadi was chatting with her sister-in-law on the phone in the living room of her sixth-storey flat in Block 431B, Yishun Avenue 1, when a man emerged from her bedroom.
She found out later that the tall, well-built stranger had climbed down from the seventh storey and got into her home by breaking the lock of her master bedroom window grille with his bare hands.
For almost 30 minutes on Sunday evening, Madam Suhadah was terrified as the man, who had a shaved head and tattoos, repeatedly told her not to alert the police and to help him escape from them.
Police confirmed they responded to a call at 7.25pm that night about a suspicious man in the vicinity, about 20 minutes before he broke into her flat. The 41-year-old man was eventually arrested for housebreaking and drug-related offences.
Speaking to The Straits Times yesterday, the 32-year-old human resource and accounts manager became tearful as she recounted how he had shoved her five-year-old son towards a wall when he started crying loudly. "The man was 'chill' at first, asking me to keep quiet and co-operate with him," said Madam Suhadah, who has three children, aged seven, five and two. "But when my kids started crying, he became aggressive and shouted at them."
Noticing through the window that there were several policemen in the void deck, she stuck an arm out to get their attention, but was ordered to stop by the man. When he heard sounds outside her door, he became anxious and asked for the keys to the kitchen window.
But she could not find them and, in a panic, the man dashed into the kitchen, broke the window grille and climbed out. He later entered other units in the fifth, fourth and third storeys the same way.
Police eventually caught him on the third floor, when the flat owner opened the door to let them in.
When The Straits Times visited Madam Suhadah's flat yesterday at about 6pm, her children were playing with their cousins in a bedroom.
But she said they were still traumatised and had been unable to sleep that night. She had to take urgent leave to keep them company as her husband was on a work trip in South Korea.
She added: "My son asked me today: 'Can we not stay here? Can we stay somewhere safe?'" The family has lived in the flat for about a year, but Madam Suhadah does not know if she wants to live there now.
Her cousin, Madam Marianna Kasim, 30, found out about the break-in from a Facebook post and came by yesterday to check on her. She said: "I wouldn't know what to do if I were her. She's a really strong woman and she did all she could to keep her children safe."
This article was first published on July 14, 2015.
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