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Bertha HarianBertha Harian

News Reports

Where were we when Gabriel died?

I am no bleeding heart but my heart goes out to the 32-year old single mom who pushed her nine-year-old son out of the window of their fifth-floor flat. I cannot but wonder how the poor boy felt as he struggled to break free and clung on to the bamboo poles outside the window before his mother pushed his hands away. What terror to know that your mom is trying to kill you. Or was she?

According to court documents, she thought that injuring the boy would make the authorities take him away from her. His father is described as an “acquaintance’’ who left her soon after Gabriel was born. She held down jobs at fast food joints but had been jobless for nine months when she “snapped’’. Her mother is supporting the family, as an $800 a month bakery assistant. And what must the old lady feel having to deal with daughter and grandson?

We are not told why the father left, he must be a Mr Loh, by the way. Gabriel was born with a host of medical problems affecting the liver and bones. He was small for his age and malnourished. I wonder about his medical bills over the past nine years. Was there a medical social worker around? Because it does seem like the family would be hard pressed on the health-financing front. We don’t even know if he goes to school and whether his teachers or classmates rendered help in any way.

But it seems that two years after Gabriel’s birth, the woman was diagnosed with schizophrenia. I’m not a medical person so I don’t know if her mental condition was triggered by the stress of looking after a brittle boned and jaundiced baby.  No husband around and we don’t know if she has any siblings to help out…

It went downhill for Rebecca (that’s her name) after that. It seems she was in some kind of denial over her medical condition, refusing to keep up with her medication or going for followup treatments.  For a one-year period between February 2012 and February last year, she was remanded at IMH three times after she..

  1. Appeared at a coffeeshop with a chopper looking for someone whom she thought had made fun of her.
  2. Hitting her mother who wouldn’t let her go to a movie
  3. Nearly strangling her mom.

So four months after her last stay in IMH, she took the step of “injuring her son’’. I don’t know what the medical term is but it sure looks like she was “escalating’’. So the police know of her and the IMH doctors. In other words, “professionals’’ know of her condition. Okay, she can’t be arrested for being a “threat’’ or “remanded at IMH’’ if she didn’t give her consent I suppose. Or could this have been done if her own mother gave consent? But what about follow-ups from agencies? She didn’t pick up her medication or attend follow-up sessions at  a community hospital. Did no one think to check up on her? Sic a VWO on her? Or am I asking too much of the State?

On June 1 last year, she grabbed her son who was playing a handheld game and decided to pitch him out of the window. She was charged originally with murder and this was downgraded to culpable homicide not amounting to murder, that is, for an offence “committed knowing that it would likely cause death but without the intention of causing death or cause a bodily injury likely to cause death’’. Such weird wording that you would think it’s tailored for the deluded. She was handed the maximum sentence of 10 years, which was what the prosecution asked for.

Now here’s where the State should do a little education so people won’t think its merely locking up mentally ill people and throwing away the key. She’s been sent to prison, a “structured setting’’ so she won’t be a threat to herself or others. According to TNP, she will receive proper treatment for her psychiatric condition. I wonder how this is different from remanding her at IMH? I guess it’s the stay in jail for 10 years; doubt that IMH has 10 year patients? The prosecution gave psychiatric reports but her lawyer also wanted another report to be given to the court before sentencing – on whether she could be cured, will relapse or spiral downwards.  He added that she may need treatment for the rest of the life but this need not be in a prison setting.

TNP phrased his request pretty strangely: The lawyer wanted the court to order an IMH consultant, who had assessed her, to submit a report before passing sentence.

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The judge said no, adding that he would be surprised “if any doctors come with such a prognosis’’. I wonder why the defence – is this pro bono? – had to get the court to “order’’ the report to be submitted and didn’t submit the report earlier. Is the judge only reading doctors’ assessment given by the prosecution? I mean no offence, but the judge is no doctor.

This is all so sad. A boy has died, his mother locked up. I wonder about the 65-year old granny, who didn’t appear at the sentencing yesterday. I hope SOMEBODY is looking after her. It would be tragic if yet another member of the family falls through the holes in our net.  I don’t know about you, but I sort of feel we’ve let the family down somehow.

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An ex-journalist who can't get enough of the news after being in the business for 26 years

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