Singapore woman jailed 5 months for setting mattress on fire after husband asked for divorce

Residents from 20 units at a public housing block had to be evacuated after a fire broke out at Malisah Mohammad Said's flat. — Cullan Smith/Unsplash pic via TODAY
Residents from 20 units at a public housing block had to be evacuated after a fire broke out at Malisah Mohammad Said's flat. — Cullan Smith/Unsplash pic via TODAY

SINGAPORE, Aug 6 — Unhappy with her husband who wanted a divorce, a woman ignored a fire raging in her flat after she tossed a lit cigarette on a mattress.

The blaze forced the evacuation of residents from 20 units in her public housing block.

For this, Malisah Mohammad Said, 31, was sentenced to five months’ jail today.

She pleaded guilty to a charge of mischief by fire.

The court heard that on July 15 last year, she was alone in the flat in the eastern region of Singapore when she received a voice message from her husband.

He wanted a divorce.

In response, she said that she would pack her bags and move out of the flat.

At that time, Malisah’s husband lived separately from Malisah and her eight-year-old daughter from a previous marriage because of an argument.

Before leaving to pick her daughter up from school, she smoked a cigarette in the flat’s master bedroom.

When she was done, she flicked the lit cigarette towards the bathroom, but it landed on the mattress of the bed. Her child’s drawing papers were scattered there.

Deputy Public Prosecutor (DPP) Samuel Chew said that even though Malisah saw smoke rising, she ignored it as she wanted to get back at her husband for suggesting that they get a divorce.

She left the flat without seeking help from the authorities. 

Ten minutes later, the Singapore Civil Defence Force (SCDF) and the police began receiving calls that her flat was on fire.

SCDF officers put out the fire within an hour. 

Residents from 20 units across five storeys of the block were forced to evacuate. No one was hurt, but the smoke damaged a section of the block’s facade. 

Repairs on Malisah’s flat came to S$16,820 (RM51,586). Her husband has since claimed about S$15,000 from his insurers.

Occupants of the flat above Malisah’s paid S$300 to repair their air-conditioning unit, which was damaged by the fire.

Judgement lapse

DPP Chew, who sought six months’ jail, said that the fire broke out in a residential building, and put the lives and safety of Malisah’s neighbours at risk. 

While Malisah did not flick the cigarette onto the mattress deliberately, DPP Chew argued that her actions afterwards increased her culpability.

Malisah’s lawyer Jonathan Cho, who asked for two to three months’ jail instead, disagreed with the prosecutor’s description of her behaviour as an act of revenge.

“It really was a lapse of judgement, surrounded by a very sad, if not tragic, case of domestic dispute. It is (neither) uncommon nor extraordinary,” Cho said.

He added that Malisah and her husband took it upon themselves to fix a downstairs neighbour’s air-conditioning unit, which leaked because of the fire. 

This showed her genuine remorse, Cho said.

He told the court that Malisah wants to put the episode behind her and has taken steps to curb her smoking habit. She also understands that her reaction and inability to deal with the domestic situation led to her lapse of judgement. 

In passing sentence, District Judge Carol Ling said that the amount of actual and potential harm caused was great, and that Malisah knew she would likely cause damage to property even if she had not intended to do so.

She could have been jailed up to seven years and fined. — TODAY

Related Articles