Wednesday August 8, 2012
Teacher at centre of probe
By DERRICK VINESH and KOW KWAN YEE
BUKIT MERTAJAM: Police probing the death of a toddler after a 20-hour ritual are zeroing their attention on the child's aunt, a teacher in her 40s.
She was dressed in white when police stormed the house during the ritual at a house in Taman Bukit Minyak near here on Sunday.
The woman, said to be a member of a Taiwanese religious cult, was seen behaving strangely and shouting outside her brother's house halfway through the rite.
“She was clad in a white shirt and white pants and held joss sticks. She shouted knock the door' in Hokkien,” said a neighbour who declined to be named.
The girl, aged two years and nine months old, died in what is believed to be a bizarre ritual during which seven family members and their Indonesian maid formed a human pile-up on her.
The child, covered in a blanket, was found lying face down under the human pile comprising her parents, grandmother, uncle, aunt, two cousins and the maid.
According to a source close to the family, one of them apparently saw a spirit trying to “grab” the girl, so they quickly formed a heap on top of her with the intention of “protecting” her.
Central Seberang Prai OCPD Asst Comm Azman Abd Lah said a post-mortem report showed that the girl died of suffocation.
“When our officers stormed the house, they found the people chanting away. We are trying to find out if this case is connected to any deviant religious group.
“The toddler's mother, who is three months' pregnant, was initially taken to the Seberang Jaya Hospital for observation.
“She is among the eight aged between 16 and 67 detained in connection with the murder case,” he said.
The teacher's younger brother, who wished to be known as Chua, 38, said he would claim the toddler's body from the mortuary today.
It was reported that Chua had alerted police on Sunday after the family chased him away when he stopped by the house to invite them out for dinner.
“My elder sister (the teacher) started to behave strangely after our father's death three weeks ago.
“We did not bring her to see any doctor as we thought she would be okay later,” he said.
According to a family friend, the teacher had also behaved strangely in school, like talking to herself and praying in the classroom.
“Sensing something amiss, the headmaster advised her to take two months of unpaid leave.
“She accompanied the toddler's mother, who is an alternative medicine practitioner, on a religious trip to Taiwan in May.
“She also claimed to have supernatural powers,” the family friend said.
A check by The Star showed that the eight could be members of a meditation-based organisation, which has a centre in Sungai Ara on the island.
The centre, housed in a double-storey bungalow, was found locked and deserted.
Two policemen in a car were seen taking pictures of the premises at 12.15pm yesterday.
A resident said there were usually about 50 devotees at the centre every Sunday between 8am and 4pm.
“Most of them are not from our area. The weekly activity is usually led by a small group of nuns believed to be from Taiwan.”