[TEARFUL: Reporter Benson Ang (far right) sitting next to Natalie's mum (with floral headscarf) and other family members at the mortuary.]
By Arul John and Benson Ang
A BUBBLY, if mischievous, girl did not live to see her second birthday next month - and it could have been over just a pack of cigarettes.
Natalie Nikie Alisyia Sallehan died on Tuesday from serious injuries allegedly inflicted on her by an adult.
A close family source told The New Paper yesterday that the attack might have been sparked by her playing with cigarettes.
The source said that at about 7.45pm on Tuesday, a man saw little Natalie playing with his cigarettes in the living room of the two-room rental flat at Boon Lay Drive.
'She had broken all the cigarettes into half and was holding them in her hands,' said the source.
He added that the man lost his temper and allegedly hit and slapped her a few times, then allegedly stepped on her.
'It seemed like it was his way to correct the girl's mistake,' said the source, who added that the man was known to be hot-tempered.
He said Natalie's mother, Madam Rozanah, who is in her 20s, had scolded the man before for hitting the child.
Natalie was the eldest of three children. Her two siblings are also girls. The middle child is 1 year old, and the youngest is about three months old.
Madam Rozanah, a housewife, was in the kitchen sweeping the floor when Tuesday's incident occurred, said the source.
She called for an ambulance when she saw that her daughter had stopped moving and was barely breathing. Blood was also oozing from her nose.
A Singapore Civil Defence Force spokesman said they received a call at 8.06pm about a toddler who had collapsed and was unconscious.
The spokesman said the child had bruises on her upper arms, legs, back and neck.
Ambulance officers arrived at 8.14pm and saw Natalie's mother at the void deck cradling the unconscious child.
Natalie was taken to National University Hospital (NUH), where doctors failed in their attempts to resuscitate her.
She was pronounced dead at about 9.30pm.
The source believes Natalie had died on the way to hospital.
Natalie was 'very cheerful, friendly, lively, all the nice words that you know of', said a family friend.
He added: 'When people came up to her, she was not shy to play.'
About 10 family members were at the mortuary yesterday, waiting to see Natalie's body.
Her mother, grandfather and aunt sat on a road kerb near the entrance and talked to themselves.
When The New Paper approached Madam Rozanah and asked if she was all right, she said through her tears: 'Yeah, I'm okay.'
She looked away, sighed and pressed a piece of tissue to her face.
Natalie's aunt said: 'Actually, nobody really knows what happened.'
Her grandfather said: 'My daughter is in shock now. We've already given a police statement.'
They left the mortuary at about 2pm without collecting the body.
When The New Paper visited the flat later, it was empty. It looked clean and well-kept.
Mr Mohd Sarin, 22, a cook who lives three doors away, said the family moved in last October.
He saw plainclothes policemen and CID officers outside the flat when he returned home at 1.30am yesterday.
Mr Mohd Sarin said he was shocked to hear of Natalie's death. He described her as fair and plump, with waist-length hair.
He said the family was quiet and mostly kept to themselves and that he did not hear any angry words from the flat, save for the mother's occasional scolding of her children.
His cousin, Madam Normah Udin, 43, said she saw the couple pass her flat on Tuesday night.
She said she saw the husband, who was in front, carrying a child, though she could not be sure which one it was.
'His wife told him 'cepat, cepat' (hurry up in Malay) and asked if he had enough money, but he did not reply.'
Madam Normah said the wife was wearing a black long-sleeved top and white skirt at the time.
She said the police arrived at the flat at about 10pm and Natalie's mother returned to the flat at about midnight, accompanied by a relative.
Madam Normah said Natalie usually wore long gowns or tops and skirts.
Police said a 26-year-old man has been arrested in connection with the case. They have classified the case as murder and are investigating.
This article was first published in The New Paper on Jan 8, 2009.
» Video: Father arrested for death of two-year-old
» Cleaner held over death of daughter