Family of 3 jailed for repeated abuse of maid, who had heated iron pressed on her

Maid suffered multiple injuries including facial bruises and burn marks in just seven months of work

Thermal burnt skin on hand (left) and distraught woman leaning head against wall (Photos: Getty Images)
Thermal burnt skin on hand (left) and distraught woman leaning head against wall (FILE PHOTOS: Getty Images)

SINGAPORE — A family of three were all sentenced to jail on Tuesday (7 March) for physically abusing their maid.

Grab driver and part-time mover Tan Huat, 70, his wife Tan Ai Tee, 68, and their 46-year-old daughter Tan Pei Ling were jailed for three weeks, nine months and 20 months respectively.

According to CNA, the maid, Heni Rahayu, had a heated iron pressed on her, hot liquid splashed on her and multiple other instances of physical abuse.

Her plight came to light on 23 July 2020, when a neighbour called the police after hearing sustained shouting from midnight to around 5.45am. Rahayu was taken to the hospital and suffered multiple injuries including facial bruises and burn marks.

Tan Huat was also fined $500 in compensation for one charge of voluntarily causing hurt to a maid. His wife was given a $2,500 compensation order after admitting to one charge of voluntarily causing hurt with an instrument for cutting, while their daughter was also ordered to pay the victim $20,000 in compensation after pleading guilty to two charges.

How the abuse started

Rahayu, an Indonesian national, was first employed by the family in January 2020 and worked in their Ang Mo Kio flat. She was required to finish her chores before sleeping and usually worked from 6am till between 2am and 4am the next day.

Inept in English, she was able to communicate with Tan Huat only in Bahasa Melayu. After about a week of work, Rahayu told Tan Huat of her desire to return to the maid agency as she felt that Tan Ai Tee and Tan Pei Ling were dissatisfied with her work performance.

Several violent incidents followed, with Ai Tee knocking the maid's head with her fist and hitting her with a plastic pail as she failed to meet her housework standards. Pei Ling also began hitting the victim with items like a plastic chair and a metal pole.

Tan Huat also slapped the victim twice on the mouth, ordering her to reply his wife and daughter when they were talking to her.

Rahayu subsequently kept the abuse from the women from Tan Huat, as she felt he would not be able to help her. She also did not seek help from other family members like Pei Ling's brother and son, due to her inability to communicate with them.

She was not granted any days off and was not allowed to leave the flat on her own, and was also unable to contact her maid agency as she was banned from having a mobile phone.

Final incident

On 23 July 2020 at about 2.30am, Rahayu was not allowed to sleep till she finished her household chores. Feeling hungry and sleepy, she went to the kitchen to make a cup of coffee.

Angry at the victim for stealing coffee, Pei Ling splashed the hot coffee at Rahayu and threatened that she would not be allowed to sleep or eat if she did not finish ironing all the clothes by 5am. Later that morning, Pei Ling burnt Rahayu on the arm with a heated iron.

A neighbour called the police at 5.46am after suspecting that his neighbour was ill-treating their maid. He claimed he heard the employer constantly shouting at the maid, who was still mopping the floor at midnight.

The police arrived shortly after and the maid was taken to the hospital.

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