56 weeks' jail for man who starved, hit mother in groin with padlock

Wan Ting Koh
·Senior Reporter
·5 min read
PHOTO: Screengrab from NUS FASS website
PHOTO: Screengrab from NUS FASS website

SINGAPORE — A 30-year-old man who pleaded guilty to abusing his elderly mother by starving her and hitting her in the groin was jailed for 56 weeks on Tuesday (23 March), as more details emerged of the mental and physical abuse he inflicted for three years.

Citing one of multiple incidents, Deputy Public Prosecutor Magdalene Huang said that Andy Koh Ju Hua made his 68-year-old mother stand by the sink for 12 hours straight while holding an ice pack to her face. He watched her from his room then threatened to hit her when she lowered her arm.

He only allowed his mother to drink plain water, and berated her when he caught his father secretly washing his pillow case. He also hit her head with a remote control, causing a scar, and threatened to hit her genitals with a hammer.

"The victim believed he targetted her private parts as the injuries could be concealed," said DPP Huang.

Other steps he took to avoid detection included forbidding the victim from answering the door or to be seen by their neighbours. If they saw neighbours, he would make his mother hide at the staircase or retreat to their flat. He also only allowed her to wear old and torn clothes in order to make it difficult for her to escape, said the prosecutor.

The DPP sought 50 weeks' jail - an enhanced jail term from the 30 weeks it had previously sought during Koh's initial hearing.

'Public disquiet' over the case

In response to the new information, Koh, who appeared via videolink while in remand, denied that his house had a hammer. He also said that his mother did not want to attend sessions with social workers and avoided talking to them as she thought that it was unnecessary.

He then repeated that he had pleaded guilty and that he "also do not know why" he committed "all those silly things to her". He repeated his need for treatment to "cure" his psychotic disorder and his wish to be reunited with his mother.

Koh, who was studying for a Masters degree at the National University of Singapore (NUS), also said that he planned to return to school to complete the remaining six months of his candidature. His candidature was terminated by NUS in January.

In passing his sentence, District Judge Kessler Soh noted that when Koh pleaded guilty last week, he had initially called for a Mandatory Treatment Order (MTO) suitability report.

However, the maximum jail term for Koh's fourth charge does not allow for an MTO as a sentencing option, as community-based sentences are only available for offences with a maximum jail term of three years.

This particular charge comes under enhanced provisions covering victims who are deemed to be in a close relationship with the offender, which came into effect on 1 January last year. Under the enhanced provision, Koh is liable to twice the maximum punishment for his charge of causing voluntarily hurt, which carries a maximum jail term of three years.

The judge also took into account the assessment from an Institute of Mental Health (IMH) psychiatrist that Koh was likely to have been influenced by psychotic symptoms.

"This is a case which has caused a lot of public disquiet. We cannot understand how the defendant could have brought himself to abuse his mother in such a cruel manner, and the manner in which he ill-treated her was abhorrent, and for that he must receive punishment in accordance with the law," said DJ Soh, who added that Koh will also receive the necessary treatment to address his mental disorder, in order to minimise his risk of reoffending when he is released.

The court will convey a community court conference to consider protective measures for the victim.

Facts of the case

Koh earlier pleaded guilty to four charges of voluntarily causing hurt to his mother.

He began to abuse his mother in 2017, and would beat her when he was feeling stressed by schoolwork.

Throughout her abuse, the woman was hospitalised on three occasions and placed in a safe house by a social services agency, but she insisted on returning to her family each time.

In January 2018, Koh kneed his mother in the groin. The victim called her relative for help, and was found by her niece in an unkempt state at another block in Punggol. The woman complained of pain in her lower abdomen and vaginal area, and also told her niece about her son's abuse.

Even though her niece wanted to call the police, the woman told her not to. She was conveyed to the hospital but claimed that her injuries were sustained from a fall. She had extensive bruising over her limbs and genitalia and had fluid collections along the abdominal and pelvic walls. She was treated and discharged on 18 January 2018.

Some 11 months later, he hit her in the face with his hands, causing her pain. In the same month, he hooked a metal padlock around his finger and hit her vaginal area several times.

The mother did not retaliate and let him vent his frustration and anger. The woman later called her elder brother, who found her nightgown with bloodstains around her groin area. She was conveyed to the hospital, which alerted the police to her plight.

However, the woman informed the police that her injuries were the result of a fall she sustained in the toilet. She sustained a facial bone fracture, nasal bone fracture, and injuries on her pubic region.

On 6 June last year, after Koh punched the woman in the mouth thrice, she fled to her relatives for help. The woman's nephew later called the police to report the family violence, noting that she looked sunken, frail, and very dirty.

A medical report showed that the mother had multiple bruises over her face and a swollen nasal bridge with abrasions across her body. She revealed her son's acts to the police after this incident.

For voluntarily causing hurt, Koh could have been jailed up to three years, and/or fined a maximum of $5,000. Under the enhanced provision covering victims in close relationships, he could have been jailed up to six years.

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