By court reporter Danny Tran
- Siti Kamal is appealing against her three-and-a-half year jail sentence
- She tried to extort money for a lost phone from the parents of a dying child
- Her legal team says the judge made a mistake by saying the crime was “amoral”
A woman who blackmailed a grieving couple over a lost phone containing photos of their dying daughter is appealing against her jail term, saying the sentencing judge was “overwhelmed” by the crime.
Siti Kamal, 26, from Malaysia, has been in protective custody since she was arrested for seeking money from Jay and Deanne Windross while their 11-month-old daughter, Amiyah, was dying in Melbourne’s Monash Children’s Hospital in 2019.
Days earlier, Ms Windross had left her phone in a bathroom at the Chadstone Shopping Centre. It contained thousands of photos of her baby that were not backed-up.
Kamal pretended to have the phone and threatened to delete the images if she did not receive $1,000.
The threats occurred in the hours before Amiyah died, with Mr Windross pleading with the blackmailer over text to give them more time.
“My baby is in her last minutes,” Mr Windross said.
“Can we discuss this tomorrow? She’s about to leave us.”
“How?” Kamal asked.
Decision to appeal a ‘kick in the guts’
Later Kamal gave the couple, now separated, an ultimatum: “Please transfer me money I will return u the phone, or maybe I just sell it.”
Last year, Kamal was jailed for at least three-and-a-half years.
But today she appeared in Victoria’s Court of Appeal where her legal team argued her sentence was “manifestly excessive” and the presiding judge had made a mistake by finding her crime was “amoral”.
The move has devastated Mr Windross, who says it is baffling.
“We basically just thought, ‘Why?'” Mr Windross said.
“You sort of make peace with it but now you’ve just got to basically relive it all again, which is not ideal.”
Prosecutor says sentence for ‘amoral’ crime ‘justified’
In written submissions filed to the court, Kamal’s lawyer, Rahmin de Kretser, said Judge Liz Gaynor “placed too much weight on denunciation and just punishment”.
“The likelihood that the judge was overwhelmed by the nature of the offence, giving too much weight to the aggravating features, and giving too little weight to the facts in mitigation, is irresistible,” he said in court documents.
“Whilst it is true the offending was persistent, the victim was vulnerable and victim impact high, it lacked many other aggravating features,” he said.
“[Kamal] desisted prior to the victim going to police and prior to receiving any money.”
But Crown prosecutor Justin Lewis said Judge Gaynor’s description of the crime as amoral was “entirely justified”.
“The sentence imposed in this case was well within the range of sentences available,” he said.
The Court of Appeal has reserved its decision.
30 April 2019
A Malaysian woman charged with blackmail after trolling the parents of a dying girl wiped away tears in court as she was told she will spend the next two-and-a-half months in jail.
Police allege Siti Nurhidayah Kamal, 24, told Melbourne couple Jay and Dee Windcross that she had their mobile phone, which contained priceless photographs of their 11-month old daughter, Amiyah.
She allegedly demanded $1000 during a series of text messages she sent the couple as they spent their last moments with Amiyah in a Melbourne hospital.
Ms Kamal appeared in the Melbourne Magistrates’ Court this morning via video link. She wore a long white T-shirt and blue pants.
When told she will be kept in custody until her next appearance on July 8, Ms Kamal looked at the ground before wiping tears from underneath her glasses.
The Malaysian national, who left her two children behind to move to a Springvale sharehouse in September, spoke briefly through an interpreter.
She asked about the next court date and nodded when asked whether she understood what was happening.
Mr and Mrs Windcross were not in court today, nor was the husband of the accused.
According to charge sheets, seen by news.com.au, the alleged blackmail attempt came last Tuesday night after Mr and Mrs Windcross made a public appeal for the return of Mrs Windcross’s Samsung Galaxy 8, which she accidentally left inside a Chadstone Shopping Centre toilet over the Easter long weekend.
After pleading with the public for the return of the phone, police allege the couple was approached out of the blue by Ms Kamal.
The couple responded, but later learned Ms Kamal did not have their phone.
Police will allege Ms Kamal initially contacted Mrs Windcross to say sorry for picking up her phone and failing to give it back.
It is alleged Ms Kamal promised to put the phone in the couple’s Boronia letterbox but wanted $1000 to be deposited into an account first.
“While trying to spend every emotional minute with Amiyah and giving her all of my attention, I’m also responding to someone claiming to have our phone with all the memories of her,” Mrs Windcross wrote on Facebook at the time.
Mr Windcross said the timing of the messages could not have been worse.
“Not only was it a complete and utter waste of my time, it was interrupting my final moments with my dying daughter.”
Ms Kamal and her husband have been struggling financially, the Ringwood Magistrates’ Court heard yesterday.
Ms Kamal was denied bail on the grounds that she posed a flight risk because her two children are still in Malaysia.
Amiyah died on Wednesday morning from an undiagnosed neurological condition she had been battling since birth.
The mobile phone has still not been returned.
Ms Kamal will return to court for a committal hearing on July 8 at 2pm.