SINGAPORE: After asking his wife to head off first after grocery shopping at a mall, an unemployed man molested a 14-year-old girl who was in her school uniform.
The girl, who was called “warrior” by her mother as a form of empowerment, confronted the molester and called the police, waiting until they arrived and arrested the man.
Abdul Karim Syed Musgooth, 53, was sentenced to a month’s jail after being convicted of one charge of outrage of modesty at the close of trial.
He had contested the charge of squeezing the girl’s buttock, claiming that he had touched her accidentally while trying to balance himself.
In a judgment made available on Wednesday (Nov 8), District Judge Brenda Tan gave her reasons for convicting the man, who had contested the charge and was represented by lawyers under the Criminal Legal Aid scheme.
THE DAY OF THE INCIDENT
The girl was in Secondary 2 on the day of the incident on Sep 30, 2020. She went to Clementi Mall in her uniform after school.
Abdul Karim, who was 51 at the time, was unemployed. The father of three went shopping at Clementi Mall with his wife, and he had a trolley with him to keep their purchases.
After buying groceries, he went to smoke while his wife shopped. He told her to make a move first and said he would catch up with her.
Abdul Karim’s wife then left with two shopping bags for the bus stop. After finishing his cigarette, Abdul Karim pulled his trolley containing the heavy items and headed towards the bus stop as well.
When he was overtaking the victim on a walkway, he molested the girl’s buttock. The girl testified that she felt five fingertips squeezing her and she was in shock.
She confronted Abdul Karim at the scene and pulled down his mask to look at his face. She said she asked him at least thrice if he had touched her, and he kept apologising.
The victim then called the police to report the molestation. As Abdul Karim started to walk away, she followed him to the bus stop, where she took a photo of him and sent the photo to her mother.
According to Abdul Karim’s wife, a warehouse worker, she had waited at the bus stop for about 20 minutes and decided to turn back to find out what happened to her husband.
She said she saw the victim with her hand around her husband’s neck, preventing him from leaving.
When she went up to the duo, Abdul Karim told her that there was a problem with the victim. He claimed that the victim had been scolding him with vulgar words, and saying that he had touched her.
Abdul Karim said he had not done anything or that he had done it accidentally.
His wife spoke to the victim, saying: “I’m also a lady, let us try to sort this out.”
According to Abdul Karim’s wife, the victim said: “No, this is my problem. What do you know? I will go to the police about this.”
The victim’s account contradicts the version of events put forth by Abdul Karim’s wife. According to the victim, Abdul Karim’s wife was at the bus stop and the victim did not know who she was.
The victim said the wife was apologising to her, but she did not know what the apologies were for.
The police arrived and arrested Abdul Karim.
THE MAN’S ACCOUNT
In Abdul Karim’s testimony, he claimed he had been pulling the trolley in his left hand and swinging his right hand up and down for balance.
He said the trolley would sometimes hit the back of his leg, which was quite painful, and that he was watching the trolley as it hit his leg when his extended right hand accidentally hit the victim’s buttock.
He claimed that the victim went up to him, pulled his hand and told him: “You hit me.”
She then pulled his mask down and used vulgarities on him before saying: “You molest me. I want to report to the police.”
Abdul Karim was shown footage of the molestation, but said the video did not show him squeezing the victim’s buttock.
THE JUDGE’S FINDINGS
District Judge Brenda Tan found the victim an unusually convincing witness who testified clearly about the offence.
Her evidence was also corroborated by footage which captured Abdul Karim closing in on the victim, overtaking her on her left when he could have easily done so on her right where there was far more space, and touching her with his right hand where five fingers were outstretched.
Judge Tan found that the prosecution had proven the charge against the accused and that Abdul Karim was not a truthful witness.
The victim felt angry, distressed and uncomfortable that she had been inappropriately touched, said Judge Tan.
She was withdrawn for months after and was fearful when people walked behind her, but has since picked herself up and moved on.
Abdul Karim is out on bail, as he intends to appeal against his conviction and sentence. The prosecution, who had sought at least 12 weeks’ jail, has also appealed against the sentence.