BUTTERWORTH:Seven close relatives were yesterday charged with causing the death of their youngest family member, 3-year-old Chua Wan Xuen, in a ritual that went wrong two weeks ago.
The seven were the girl’s parents, Chua Seng Ban and Lim She Lee, grandmother Ong Soh Guat, 67, cousins Loke Xin Lin, 21, and a 16-year-old, uncle Chua Seng Hoo, 29, and aunt Chuah Ah Luan, 40.
All seven were charged with causing death by negligence which carries a maximum two year jail sentence and fine.
In explaining the charge to reporters later, deputy public prosecutor Suhaimi Ibrahim said “not all deaths were murder cases”. Earlier, all seven accused claimed trial before Sessions Court judge Ameruddin Ahmad when the charge was read to them in Mandarin and Hokkien.
The girl’s parents, both 35, also claimed trial to an additional charge of exposing their daughter to physical harm under the Child Act 2001, which carried a maximum RM20,000 fine and 10 years’ jail, or both.
They all looked calm during the proceedings. They nodded, indicating they understood the charge.
A large group in the public gallery, believed to be relatives, followed the proceedings closely.
Suhaimi told the court that Chuah, the victim's aunt who allegedly led the exorcism ritual, appeared unwell and did not seem to understand the charge. He urged the court to place her under psychiatric observation but Ameruddin said she appeared well and did not suffer any mental illness.
Defence counsel C.P. Ang, who represented all the accused, appealed for a reasonable bail amount, saying that all the accused were related to the victim.
He also said that all the accused loved the victim and were now grieving for her, adding there was no likelihood that they would skip bail. Ameruddin set bail at RM4,000 each. Pre-trial conference was set for Sept 13.
The seven accused allegedly committed the offence in a house in Lorong Bukit Minyak 19, Taman Bukit Minyak in Bukit Tengah, Seberang Prai, between 7.50pm and 10.52pm, on Aug 5.
It was reported that the seven family members had pinned down the victim in the master bedroom of the home in an attempt to save her from an angry spirit. The child was believed to have been dead when policemen, who arrived at the scene, pulled the adults off her.
The Indonesian maid, who was in the room when the incident took place, would be called as a witness in the trial.
It was also reported that Chua was an engineer at a multinational company in Kulim.