In the afternoon of June 3, 2016, a newborn was found in a plastic bag inside a toilet bin at Tampines MRT. Yesterday, the state coroner, Mr Marvin Bay recorded an open verdict in the inquest. An open verdict is where there is a suspicion of foul play but the exact cause is not established.
As the report goes, the suspicion falls on three women who are from Batam, Indonesia. One pregnant woman, referred to as Ms M in the report, was seen entering Singapore from the Harbourfront Ferry Terminal on 25 May 2016. She was caught on CCTV camera entering the toilet on June 3 and staying there for quite some time. However, the recordings indicate that she went there ‘after’ the delivery.
May his soul rest in peace
Before she entered, two women are seen entering the toilet with a heavy plastic bag and coming out with a visibly lighter bag. All three worked together to set up the Hari Raya bazaar at the open grounds at Tampines. The janitor, Mdm Jumiati Amat, found the baby dumped in a red plastic bag. The placenta and umbilical cord were still attached to the baby.
The paramedics arrived on the scene and declared the baby dead. The autopsy report describes a baby that may have been born between 38 and 42 weeks but does not rule out still-birth. The baby was clean, indicating that it was born elsewhere. The cause of death might have been asphyxia of birth or even intentional suffocation. It may also have died due to improper care after birth leading to hypoglycemia.
Vague as the report may sound, it is not always easy to pinpoint the cause of death in such cases. On the face, it looks like a case of abandonment of a newborn, but could easily have been a disposal of a still-born child. May his soul rest in peace.
Abandoned babies in Singapore
While babies are being abandoned in such a manner, there are many who are trying hard to beget one. I wish there were an easy means for an adoption of such unwanted babies. In many cases, these mothers are teenagers who got pregnant accidentally. One particular incident was in news a while ago when a teenage father tried to abandon his baby in an SG50 bag outside his parents’ house. The mother was only 14.
Statistically, there has been a drop in such pregnancies due to improved contraception. That said, improper information may lead to abandonment, when a legal option may be available. The need of the day is to accept the situation and offer assistance.
So parents, if you come across someone who is not too sure about the pregnancy and needs help, here are a few numbers where the mothers can call. Proper counselling and guidance would lead to a better future for such babies as well as expectant mums.
The Ministry of Social Welfare has set up a 24-hour toll-free MUM-TO-BE Helpline at 1800-686-86-23. Teenagers can send an SMS <BABES> at 8111 3535 or call toll-free at 1800-TEENMOM to seek help.
Know more about the Voluntary Welfare Organisations that can help pregnant women here.
Back to the unfortunate incident. The three women were seen to leave Singapore between 5 and 7 June. They have not yet returned to Singapore, and I guess they never will.
Also Read: Mother of abandoned baby at Serangoon Central found