Mum gets maximum 10 years' jail for causing son's death

Mum gets maximum 10 years' jail for causing son's death
According to court documents, single mum Rebecca Loh worried about providing for her son, who had special needs. She thought that by ill-treating the boy, the authorities would take him away and put him into better care.

SINGAPORE - She was about to admit to causing the death of her only child, nine-year-old Gabriel, by pushing him out of a fifth-storey window last year.

But 32-year-old Rebecca Loh showed little expression in the High Court yesterday.

Instead, the bespectacled woman, who has a history of schizophrenia, stood up and in an almost chirpy voice, said: "I plead guilty."

When Justice Tay Yong Kwang asked if she understood the consequences of her plea, she replied: "Ya, I admit to the charge. Oh, and I also seek leniency."

She was sentenced to the maximum of 10 years in jail for culpable homicide. The judge said he agreed with Deputy Public Prosecutor Eugene Lee, who had called for a long jail term, "to allow for her to be properly treated and rehabilitated".

First diagnosed with schizophrenia in 2006, Loh, a single mother, had been living with her mother, believed to be 65, and son in a West Coast Road flat.

Gabriel suffered from a host of medical conditions related to his liver that left him jaundiced and with brittle bones.

According to court documents, Loh was worried about providing for her special-needs son, as she had been unemployed for 10 months.

She previously worked as a cashier and at fast-food joints.

She had lost contact with the boy's father soon after Gabriel was born.

She thought that by ill-treating Gabriel, he would be taken away by the authorities and put into better care.

On June 1 last year, she carried her son from the living room sofa, where he was playing a handheld electronic game, and put him on the ledge outside the window.

As the boy stood on the parapet, she admitted pushing his hands from the clothes-drying pole holders.

The boy fell to the ground and died in hospital.

Loh was arrested on the same day and initially charged with murder.

This was amended in July to culpable homicide not amounting to murder.

In 2011, she was also charged over possession of a chopper in a coffee shop. Later that year, she beat her mother for not allowing her to go for a movie.

In February last year, she was admitted to the Institute of Mental Health (IMH) after trying to strangle her mother, the family's sole breadwinner who worked as a part-time assistant at a bakery.

Through the years, she suffered relapses because she skipped treatment and stopped taking her medication.

After her latest arrest, psychiatric assessments at IMH found that Loh was "at a moderate to high risk" of committing a violent act in the future, and that she possibly needed treatment for the rest of her life.

She was, however, deemed fit to give her plea in court yesterday.

Loh's lawyer Amarick Gill requested time to get further input from medical experts on the appropriate length of any jail sentence.

But Justice Tay dismissed the suggestion. He gave her the maximum sentence, backdated to her arrest, and said this was "in view of the accused's history and... for the safety of those (whom she) may come in contact with".

hpeishan@sph.com.sg


This article was first published on September 25, 2014.
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