Babysitter says 'pressure' made her kill toddler

By Hai Duyen   January 30, 2024 | 03:23 pm PT
Babysitter says 'pressure' made her kill toddler
Nguyen Ngoc Phuong at the Family and Juvenile Court under the HCMC People’s Court, Jan. 30, 2024. Photo by VnExpress/Hai Duyen
A babysitter in Ho Chi Minh City was sentenced for life in prison for beating a toddler to death, saying she did so because she was "under a lot of pressure."

Nguyen Ngoc Phuong, 32, stood before the Family and Juvenile Court under the Ho Chi Minh City People’s Court on Tuesday to be tried for murdering a person under 16.

Phuong was arrested by the HCMC District 7 police in 2022 for beating a little girl under her care who later died of severe head trauma.

At the court on Tuesday, Phuong admitted to her crime, saying that on Sept. 25, 2022, the father of the toddler, named Duc, brought his 15-month-old daughter to Phuong. The two agreed to a monthly babysitting fee of VND5 million ($205).

The girl would stay at Phuong’s home at an apartment on Huynh Tan Phat Street in District 7. Phuong was also taking care of five other kids at the same time as Duc’s.

Authorities said Phuong frequently beat the girl in her face, head, and legs when she cried. From Nov. 3 to 5, 2022, Phuong beat the child in the head using milk bottles and brooms.

On Nov. 6, 2022, after feeding the girl, Phuong saw that the girl showed signs of unresponsiveness, so she took her to the District 7 hospital. The girl was later transferred to Children’s Hospital 2 in a coma, with several bruises on her body. The girl died two days later.

"The child was crying all day, I had to carry her in my arms at all times, even while I was in the toilet. She cried too much, making the other kids cry as well, and I was unable to console them," Phuong said.

She added that she had been babysitting Duc’s child for over a month, but he had only given her VND2 million, forcing her to use her own money to buy milk and diapers, putting her under "a lot of pressure."

Phuong said the beatings were only to "threaten" the girl so that she would "behave better." Phuong said she was not aware that her actions would cause such severe consequences.

When judges asked why she did not return the child to her parents if there was not enough money to raise her, Phuong said Duc was in a precarious situation and had to raise two children on his own after his wife left him.

"I was concerned and empathized with him, so I tried to keep and raise her," she said.

When prosecutors asked her why she did not allow Duc to visit his child a month after keeping her, Phuong said the child had just gotten used to living at her house and was crying less, so she was worried that if the father came, she would cry harder.

However, prosecutors argued that Phuong did not allow Duc to meet the child as he would discover that his child had been beaten, as there were already bruises on both of her arms at the time.

At the court, Duc said as his financial situation was dire, he was only able to pay Phuong VND2 million, split into two occasions.

"When I brought the money to her, she said if I was in too much of a situation, I could give her VND500,000 first," he said.

"I trusted her. I didn’t think she would beat my child like that."

Babysitters beating children under their care is not rare in Vietnam.

A court in Da Lat in Vietnam's Central Highlands in March last year sentenced two young women to 1.5 and two years in jail for beating a two-year-old girl at their nursery to the point of brain damage and lung injuries.

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