A 38-year-old Filipina with a history of sleepwalking is believed to have climbed through a 10th storey window while asleep and fallen to her death last year, according to regional broadcaster CNA.
A coroner’s court in Singapore heard on Thursday (May 12) that Ruth Dalumpines Dulfo is said to have inadvertently fallen out of the window in her apartment. No foul play is suspected.
Dulfo, who came to the city-state in 2009, had a history of sleepwalking, with at least four known instances.
The night before her death, she had consumed alcohol during a gathering in the apartment. However, her housemates said that she was sober at the time and could carry on a conversation.
Toxicology tests also found a high but non-lethal concentration of ethanol in Dulfo’s blood.
These facts emerged on the first day of a coroner’s inquiry into Dulfo's death, where a police inspector, one of her housemates and a neurologist specialising in sleep medicine gave testimony.
Dulfo was found lying motionless at the foot of her block at Laguna Park condominium, where she lived with five housemates, in the early hours of June 7, 2021.
According to her housemates, the gathering at the apartment had gone into the early hours of the morning. Two of them said that she was still awake and using her phone when they went to bed at around 3am to 4am. However, they were unsure if she actually went to sleep that night.
At about 7.05am on Jun 7, the police were notified that Dulfo had fallen from a height.
A search of the apartment found an open window, which was usually closed, in the toilet in the main hall. The window measured 67cm wide and 50cm high, and was 1.7m above the floor.
Police found that the location of the toilet window lined up with where Dulfo’s body was found. Her DNA was also found on the window lever.
Investigating officer Gilbert Chow said that Dulfo, who was 1.45m tall and weighed 48kg, was a “very fit” individual who would have been able to pass through the window.
It is believed that a metal shower tap could have supported her weight, providing a surface for her to climb up and propel herself through the open window.
However, Chow also acknowledged that there was no closed-circuit television footage and no witnesses to prove this.
Previous incidents of sleepwalking
Dulfo’s sister told the police that there were three previous incidents when she had sleepwalked, all of which took place in the Philippines.
One incident involved Dulfo walking out of her bedroom with her eyes closed and going down the stairs. She could not be awakened, so she was turned back to the bedroom.
Her housemate also testified about an occasion in 2021 where he saw her emerging from a storage area, instead of her bedroom. She looked like she had just awakened.
When asked how she got there and whether she had slept there, Dulfo replied that she did not know.
A senior consultant at the National Neuroscience Institute also concluded in her expert report that Dulfo was sleepwalking during the incident.
Dr Pavanni Ratnagopal stressed that this was based on the assumption that the victim was indeed sleeping prior to her fall. Based on her history, it appeared that Dulfo was able to carry out “quite complicated actions” while sleepwalking, such as taking the stairs.
In Dr Ratnagopal's opinion, it was possible for a sleepwalking person to climb through the toilet window in Dulfo’s apartment. She added that climbing out of windows and driving cars are among the complex actions that sleepwalkers are known to perform.
A sleepwalking person is unaware of his or her actions, and cannot foresee danger in their actions. The doctor noted that specific triggers for sleepwalking are uncommon, and reports about the effect of alcohol on sleepwalking came to different conclusions.
No suicide note
The court heard that those who knew Dulfo considered her a jovial person, while no suicide note or explanation for her death was found in her diary.
The only potential concern she had was about a co-payment of S$540 that she was expected to make for her family’s down payment on a house in the Philippines, according to witnesses.
Ms Dulfo’s manager told the police that some time before her death, she asked for her entire month’s salary to be remitted to her family in the Philippines.
This was unusual as she usually sent only a portion of her income to her family, according to the manager.
Mr Chow also told the court that at about 2.50am on the night of her death, Ms Dulfo sent a text message to her mother asking her if she was okay.
Judge Sripathy-Shanaz adjourned the hearing for police to look into Ms Dulfo’s usual practice of remittance to her family.
She also asked police to make further attempts to decrypt Ms Dulfo’s mobile phone and tablet in order to rule out other possibilities of how she may have died.
Coroner Sharmila Sripathy-Shanaz will conduct a further review of evidence in two weeks and issue her findings in due course.