It was a horrifying find – the body of a newborn baby in a bin full of kitchen waste.
A recycling company worker in New Taipei City immediately alerted the police of his discovery on Tuesday (Feb 26) morning, sparking an investigation into a possible case of murder and abandonment.
To trace the whereabouts of the dead infant girl’s parents, Taiwanese police reviewed hundreds of surveillance footage captured by cameras located along the route of the garbage truck.
On Thursday, they finally found a lead – with a Singapore connection.
In a video captured outside a restaurant in Ximending, a man in his 20s is seen carrying a black plastic bag – which is believed to contain the baby – at around 3am on Tuesday.
After throwing the bag into the recycling bin, he left the scene in a hurry.
The police also observed that the man spoke Mandarin with a foreign accent, which led them to visit a hotel popular with tourists from Southeast Asia.
But by Tuesday afternoon, the man and his girlfriend, who are from Singapore, had already checked out of the hotel. They flew home on the same day.
Hotel staff told Apple Daily that the woman appeared to be pregnant when they first arrived, but her tummy “disappeared” when she left.
The police also collected DNA samples from the couple’s room to determine whether they are related to the dead infant.
If a match is found between the suspects and the baby, Taiwan’s criminal investigation bureau said it will contact its counterpart in Singapore to assist.
The baby was found with her umbilical cord and placenta intact and is believed to have been disposed of shortly after she was born.
An offence to abandon child
In a separate report by The Straits Times, Singapore’s Ministry of Social and Family Development says that cases of abandoned babies are rare.
When an abandoned baby is found, the police will investigate, and the ministry’s Child Protection Service will initially place the baby under its foster care service.
If the child’s parents are located, the ministry will assess their ability to care for the child.
If the parents are not found, or they are deemed to be unable to provide “appropriate care” for the baby, the child will be put up for adoption.
In quite a number of cases of abandoned babies reported in the media, investigations found that the mothers were working in Singapore as maids.
One case widely reported in 2011 was of a newborn boy who was found buried with a plastic bag knotted around his neck in a roof-top garden in Eunos.
The boy’s mouth was stuffed with mud and leaves, but he was found alive by a passer-by. His mother, an Indonesian maid, 28, was later sentenced to six weeks in jail for child abandonment.
It is an offence to abandon a child. Those found guilty of the act can be jailed for up to seven years and/or fined.
Social workers who help women facing a pregnancy crisis say the number of abandoned babies here remains very small.
Ms Jennifer Heng, director of Dayspring New Life Centre, said this is in part because abortion is available to women as an option.
But there are also support services to help women in distress come to terms with what to do with their pregnancy, such as placing the baby for adoption or raising the child themselves.
“People have their family, friends and help agencies to turn to to find some support,” she said. “They don’t need to reach that extreme stage of desperation to abandon their baby.”
A version of this article first appeared in Asiaone and The Straits Times.