#JusticeForBella: M'sians Cry Foul Over Alleged Abuse Of OKU Child By Her Carer

The 13-year-old child with Down syndrome was allegedly burnt by hot water, causing many parts of her body to sustain bleeding wounds.

Cover image via Instagram & Facebook

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Disclaimer: This story contains images of injuries that might be distressing to some readers.

A campaign demanding justice for a child with Down syndrome has gone viral, after it was exposed that the abuser is her carer

At the time of writing, the #JusticeForBella hashtag has garnered over 108,000 tweets.

Photos of the 13-year-old victim's β€” known only as Bella β€” injuries are being widely circulated on Twitter and Facebook.

A one-minute long video showing a woman behind a camera tearfully asking if Bella was okay, as she carefully fishes for more information about the origin of Bella's injuries, has gone viral with over 300,000 views on Instagram.

In the video, when Bella takes off a long sleeve covering her left arm, the woman behind the camera is appalled to find her wounds are exposed and bleeding.

Utusan Malaysia reported that the incident was also made viral by a netizen, who shared Bella's alleged abuse account on Facebook.

The netizen said she suspected Bella's home is infected with COVID-19, which led her to visit the house to seek clarification.

"When Bella came out of the storeroom, she looked frail. Her arm was burnt [and had] pus. The suspicion turned out to be true. Bella's guardian was good at hiding her condition from outsiders," she related.

"I immediately lodged a police report. Apparently, Bella had to stand by the wall every morning and was not given any food. If she sat down, the other children would hit her. Apparently, five other children also hit her."

Image via Instagram

According to a media statement by the police, the victim suffered burns on several parts of her body, including chest, hands, neck, and thighs

Doctors said she had infected burn wounds over bilateral forearms and multiple old scars all over her body.

Police learnt that Bella was living in a condominium in Wangsa Maju, Kuala Lumpur along with six other children, two of whom are persons with disabilities (OKU) under the age of two.

Besides Bella, the other children did not sustain any physical wounds. However, all of them tested positive for COVID-19.

Police investigation revealed that the condominium unit was under the care of a 28-year-old woman.

The case is currently being investigated under Section 31 (1)(a) of the Child Act 2001 for negligence in caring for a child leading to his or her injuries.

Click to Reveal
Image from Facebook
Image via Facebook

Bella was previously living at a government-run home but was allowed to be cared for by an individual who wanted to be her guardian

"She (Bella) was previously under the care of JKM (Social Welfare Department), but when there is an application from an individual who is deemed fit and appropriate, then permission is approved following a court order," Sinar Harian quoted Women, Family, and Community Development Minister Datuk Seri Rina Harun as saying on 8 July.

"Everything went according to the official procedure."

"In fact, last February, JKM visited this child. At that time she was healthy, until her story was exposed and videos of her were spread on social media. These children were given custody to deserving individuals only, not through welfare organisations."

The Malay daily reported that Bella was living in Taman Sinar Harapan Seremban (TSHS) in Negeri Sembilan before being adopted by a welfare home last year.

Rina said the non-governmental organisation (NGO) which operated the welfare home where Bella and other children were living had submitted an application to be registered in the past, reported The Star.

Image via Facebook

Following the incident, JKM revoked the custody rights to the six children from the 28-year-old woman

When asked why was Bella abused, JKM Kuala Lumpur director Che Samsuzuki Che Noh said the 28-year-old woman confessed that Bella has difficulty hearing words and is stubborn, reported Harian Metro.

"She claimed that Bella often disturbed the other siblings, while the scars on the child's hands were due to the hot water spill," said the director.

"Besides, Bella was alleged to have peeled the scabs of the wound and made it difficult to heal."

He added that all the children have been given appropriate placement at welfare centres operated by JKM.

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