3 jailed for death of toddler in ‘exorcism ritual’

GEORGE TOWN - The High Court Friday imposed stiffer punishment on three family members accused of causing a toddler's death in an exorcism ritual gone awry last year.

Judge Datuk Zamani Abdul Rahim, in allowing the prosecution's appeal against the inadequacy of the fine imposed, ordered the girl's parents, Chua Seng Ban and Lim She Lee, both 36, and her uncle, Chua Seng Hoo, 30, to be jailed for a year beginning Friday.

The girl's aunt, Chua Ah Luan, 41, was acquitted but ordered to be placed in safe custody at the Penang Prison at the pleasure of the Yang diPertua Negeri, also beginning from Friday. Zamani found Ah Luan not guilty on grounds that she was of unsound mind.

"The report by a certified psychiatrist, tendered to the court before the trial, concluded that Ah Luan showed signs of schizophrenia and that she was not aware or conscious of her act on the day of the incident.

"The report also said her mental state was stable and she was fit to be tried in court."

Zamani also sentenced Seng Ban and Lim to a year's jail each over a separate charge, and ordered the jail terms to run concurrently.

The four had been fined RM10,000 (S$3,891) each by the Butterworth Sessions Court for causing the death of Chua Wan Xuen, who was aged 2 years and nine months then, at a house in Bukit Tengah, Bukit Mertajam, between 7.50pm and 10.52pm on Aug 5 last year.

The girl's parents were also fined RM5,000 on a separate charge of exposing their child in a manner likely to cause her physical injury under Section 31(1)(a) of the Child Act 2001. The prosecution filed appeals on both charges.

The prosecution had also appealed against the sentence imposed on the girl's grandmother, Ong Soh Guat, 68, cousin Loke Xim Lin, 22 and another cousin, 17, but withdrew the appeal.

The family members were represented by C.P. Ang while Siti Fatimah Talib prosecuted.