Couple who tortured flatmate over 8 months until her death jailed 14-16.5 years

Nigel Chin
Reporter
Photo: Getty Images

A couple who tortured a flatmate almost daily over eight months until her death were sentenced to jail on Friday (1 December).

Tan Hui Zhen, 33, was jailed 16 years and six months while her husband Pua Hak Chuan, 38, was jailed 14 years and given 14 strokes of the cane for repeatedly abusing Annie Ee Yu Lian, 26, who died in the couple’s flat in Woodlands on 13 April 2015. In meting out the sentence in the High Court, Justice Hoo Sheau Peng described the unrelenting abuse by the couple as cruel and appalling.

Tan had pleaded guilty to four charges of voluntarily causing grievous hurt by dangerous weapon and causing grievous hurt, while Pua admitted to three similar charges. Eighteen other charges were taken into consideration against the couple who tortured Ee, a restaurant waitress, from August 2014 to April 2015.

The couple were originally accused of murder, but their charges were amended based on the evidence and expert opinion of a forensic pathologist. Medical reports submitted to the court by the prosecution said that while Ee died from “multiple injuries”, each injury would “not be in the ordinary course of nature be expected to cause death”.

Justice Hoo said that both Tan and Pua had abused Ee not just physically, but also psychologically and financially. She also said that Ee, who was assessed to be of low intellectual ability, died in an “undignified manner”.

The horrific injuries Ee sustained included multiple fractures in the rib, bruises on her upper limbs, lower limbs and her torso, as well as swelling and bruising on her head.

Among the items that the couple had used to hit Ee were a heavy roll of shrink wrap, which the prosecution said “is an instrument, which used as a weapon of offence is likely to cause death”, as well as a wooden pole, a belt and bathroom slippers. They had also slapped her with their hands on multiple occasions and kicked her in the chest.

The attacks were so severe that several customers and colleagues noticed Ee had trouble walking while she was at work. A day prior to her death, Ee used a pair of scissors to cut her wrist. She also had no appetite, could not even put on a pair of shorts on her own, and urinated on the mattress.

When she was found dead on the morning of 13 April 2015, Tan called the police and claimed that Ee committed suicide. They also tore off two layers of plastic from the shrink wrap and disposed of it so that police would not find their fingerprints on it.

The prosecution had pushed for Tan to be jailed for 15 years, and Pua to be given 14 years’ imprisonment along with 12 strokes of the cane at the previous hearing. It argued that an aggravating factor against the couple was that they prevented Ee from receiving timely treatment for her injuries.

Tan’s eldest brother, who is in his 30s, said after the hearing that they are “not in any position” to comment whether sentences are appropriate in respect of the law.

He also apologised to Ee’s family on behalf of his family, and said this case is a lesson for everyone. “I hope, with the current societal stress everyone is facing, everyone can draw lessons from it and not give in to pressure or stress.”

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