By HAMDAN RAJA ABDULLAH
MUAR, Malaysia - The happy chatter of children turned into screams of horror when an unidentified man armed with a hammer barged into a kindergarten here and bludgeoned three six-year-olds.
In the morning incident which shocked the residents of the usually peaceful Lorong Haji Ali, the man rode up to the kindergarten and parked his motorcycle outside.
Holding a hammer in one hand, he climbed over the fence and kicked open the locked grill that led to the main hall of Tadika Sinario.
Some 20 children were having breakfast at the time, under the watchful eyes of kindergarten operator Voon Siew Kuin, 45.
The children were at first shocked to see a stranger charging into their kindergarten, but became horrified when violence unfolded in the next few minutes.
Voon tried to attract the attention of the man by repeatedly asking him: "You cari siapa? (Who are you looking for?)".
Agitated, the small-built man threw pepper powder at her and hit her with the hammer.
As she groaned in pain, the man began to wildly swing the hammer at the children.
Three of them, including a girl, were hit on the head.
The other children screamed as they tried to flee.
The man then ran away when Voon recovered and chased after him with a broom.
When he reached his motorcycle, he threatened Voon by waving the hammer at her before riding away.
Apart from her, the only other adult at the kindergarten was a helper in her 50s.
She was in the kitchen when the attack happened.
Voon and the assistant rushed the three children to the Sultanah Fatimah Specialist Hospital at about 10.20am as they were bleeding profusely on the head.
The two boys, Vincent Tey and Alex Tan, and the girl, Nur Nadrah Nabilah Mohd Yusri, underwent emergency treatment, including thorough head scans.
Nur Nadrah's father Mohd Yusri Mukhlis was thankful that his daughter was not critically hurt.
He was horrified when he was earlier misinformed that Nur Nadrah had died. His wife, Farah Asyikin Abu Samah, went limp when she heard the news.
"We were relieved when we met the doctors at the hospital and were told of her condition," he said at the hospital.
The three children were later sent to the Sultanah Aminah Hospital in Johor Baru.