SINGAPORE, Sept 20 — A 35-year-old woman was suffering from schizophrenia, which went untreated for years, when she stabbed her eight-year-old daughter to death last year, a court heard today (September 20).

The woman had behaved erratically in the days prior to the killing, before voices told her that her child was an evil spirit whom she needed to get rid of.

She stabbed the girl several dozen times on her neck, torso, face, arms and hands in the bedroom of their Geylang Lorong 31 residential unit — all while her younger daughter, then aged four, watched on.

Today, the Singaporean woman, now 36, was found to have caused the victim’s death but she was acquitted of murder due to her unsound mind.

Under the Criminal Procedure Code, she will now be “kept in safe custody” in a psychiatric institution, prison or other suitable places for an indefinite period of time at the President’s discretion.

She cannot be named due to a gag order to protect her other daughter's identity.

Both the prosecution and defence agreed that she was mentally incapacitated and was so out of touch with reality that she could not differentiate between right and wrong.

Her family members, who were in court today, were given some time to speak to her before she was taken away.

Voices told her food was poisoned

The court heard that the killing on August 11 last year was her first episode of psychosis stemming from schizophrenia.

Her mental illness went untreated for several years, worsening as time progressed.

She began hearing voices in March last year. They were soft, infrequent and vague at the beginning but grew louder and more distressing as time went by.

The voices told her that her food, water and family’s cooking were poisoned. They also told her to harm herself and kill her older daughter because the girl was an evil spirit.

She had met her children’s father in Singapore in 2007. They did not marry and he returned to China in 2014 to continue working while she remained here.

Prior to travel restrictions being imposed due to the Covid-19 pandemic in 2020, she would travel to China to visit him or he would return to Singapore to see her and their children.

During the pandemic, they communicated only through video calls.

Meanwhile, her family members noticed her behaving strangely from 2018 onwards. She suspected that her phone and laptop were hacked and that people were following her.

Suspicious that others would harm her, she threw away food and drinks from her family, banned her daughters from eating their food, and monitored her relatives' cooking so they would not add poison to the food.

She also stopped sleeping with the air-conditioner on because she was afraid of falling into deep sleep and fail to notice people harming her.

Behaved erratically

On the two days leading up to the killing, closed-circuit television footage showed her behaving erratically in public.

On August 9 last year, she took the train from Aljunied to Somerset MRT station. She left the station and re-entered 12 minutes later, but almost immediately tapped out of the station using her transit card.

She then took the train to Tanjong Pagar before returning to Aljunied. She said the voices in her head had instructed her to do it.

The next day, she took her younger daughter with her and tailgated a commuter to enter Aljunied MRT Station. They then went to Tampines and wandered around aimlessly, including sitting on the floor for half an hour at the foyer of Tampines Mall.

She said she had been instructed by the voices to look for “house #05-01” in Tampines.

The voices also told her not to take her older daughter with her so she left the girl near Aljunied MRT station. The girl went to her grandparents’ coffee shop nearby.

64 penetrating injuries

On the day of the incident, the woman's niece was having breakfast in their living room when she heard the woman speaking incoherently in Mandarin in her bedroom, bringing up names of Chinese historical figures.

The girl told her mother, who dismissed the claims.

While she continued eating her breakfast, the girl heard cries coming from her aunt’s room. She then decided to record the incident because she felt it would be useful if her aunt eventually sought help.

During her loud ranting, the woman claimed her knife had been stolen and only her stomach was left on Earth.

When her brother checked on her, he found the victim lying motionless and bloodied on the ground. The accused was naked and holding a pair of scissors.

The voices had told her to stab the girl, then take off her own clothes and kill herself.

However, she failed before her brother came into the room. He shouted for their family to call the police and removed a bloodstained knife from the bedroom. He also saw his other niece hiding behind the bedroom door.

The victim was pronounced dead at KK Women’s and Children’s Hospital. She had suffered 64 penetrating injuries, with her cause of death being stab wounds to the neck and torso.

The woman was defended by Choo Si Sen and Ms Choo Yean Lin from Tan Lee & Partners, who told High Court judge Valerie Thean: “We submit that a young innocent life is gone — this cannot be undone. But we pray she can recover speedily so she can be reunited with her aged parents and her other daughter.”

Under the usual circumstances, murder carries life imprisonment or the death penalty.

Where to get help

National Care Hotline: 1800-202-6868

Fei Yue's Online Counselling Service: website (Mon to Fri, 10am to 12pm, 2pm to 5pm)

Institute of Mental Health's Mental Health Helpline: 6389-2222 (24 hours)

Samaritans of Singapore: 1800-221-4444 (24 hours) / 1-767 (24 hours)

Singapore Association for Mental Health: 1800-283-7019 (Mon to Fri, 9am to 6pm)

Silver Ribbon Singapore: 6386-1928 / 6509-0271 (Mon to Fri, 9am to 6pm)

Tinkle Friend: 1800-274-4788 (Mon to Fri, 2.30pm to 5pm)

Touchline (Counselling): 1800-377-2252 (Mon to Fri, 9am to 6pm) ― TODAY