Jail for employer of maid who climbed down 15 floors to escape cruel abuse

Wan Ting Koh
·Reporter
·6-min read
Young woman crouching with face hidden
Young woman crouching with face hidden. (PHOTO: Getty Images)

SINGAPORE – The employer of an abused domestic helper, who fled by climbing down 15 balconies in the dead of night, was jailed 10 months and two weeks on Wednesday (18 November).

The prosecution had earlier told the court that Nuur Audadi Yusoff, 31, had been spiteful, malicious and “triggered by the flimsiest of reasons” to abuse 24-year-old Sulis Setoywati. It sought at least 10 months’ jail for Nuur Audadi, a Singtel employee deployed to support the Ministry of Manpower’s (MOM) contact centre.

Nuur Audadi had slapped Sulis, spat at her, dragged her by her hair and poked her with seven implements throughout the five months that the maid had worked for her. After finding out that the maid had intentions to flee, she then “undertook a campaign of wrongful confinement”, said the prosecution.

Unable to take the abuse, the Indonesian maid clambered down from the balcony in the middle of the night in April 2018, as the main door to the 15th-floor unit was locked.

Apologies and compensation came very late: DPP

In mitigation, Nuur Audadi’s lawyer Kalaithasan Karuppaya submitted testimonials from others, including a foreign domestic worker, and pleaded for leniency and compassion.

The lawyer had initially sought for his client to begin her sentence after 7 January, as her son was due for a major operation then. However, Nuur Audadi addressed the court to say she did not wish to delay the matter any further, and would begin her sentence on Wednesday.

Nuur Audadi has also paid the maid $7,020 in compensation for her medical bills and loss of income.

However Deputy Public Prosecutor Chong Kee En urged the court to place little mitigating weight on it, as the compensation – as well as the woman’s apologies – came “very late”.

He noted that Nuur Audadi had pleaded guilty only a week before her trial, and that Sulis had been waiting at the embassy – where she still remains – in the interim.

Given that Nuur Audadi worked as a customer service officer at the MOM, she should have known better, the DPP pointed out.

In sentencing Nuur Audadi, District Judge Ronald Gwee said, “The victim in this case suffered from cruel treatment from accused and the injuries suffered by the victim were both psychological and physical... A deterrent sentence must be meted out in this case to send strong message that such cruel behaviour is simply unacceptable.”

Nuur Audadi had earlier pleaded guilty to six of 14 charges of voluntarily causing hurt. The remaining charges and a count of committing mischief was taken into consideration for sentencing.

Abuse began a month into employment

Sulis arrived in Singapore in mid-2017 and worked for Nuur Audadi from 1 December 2017 until 1 May 2018. She was paid $580 a month.

In January 2018, Nuur Audadi spat at and slapped the helper’s face for not applying ointment on her daughter’s stomach.

After a few more instances of such abuse, Sulis cried and asked for a transfer but agreed to continue working for Nuur Audadi when the latter promised not to hit her again. She had also needed the wages to support her child back home.

On 11 April 2018, Nuur Audadi brought Sulis to the MOM to make a report on her former employer, who still owed her wages. Sulis felt grateful over the incident.

However, things went downhill for the maid from then. That same month, Nuur Audadi assaulted Sulis – on her neck – with a bunch of house keys. She told Sulis that even if she was crying, the door was locked and no one would help her.

When the maid failed to clean a motorcycle and helmet belonging to Nuur Audadi’s husband as instructed, the latter used an umbrella to hit the maid on the head and poke her stomach several times.

Phone incident exacerbated abuse

On 21 April 2018, Nuur Audadi discovered Sulis had a mobile phone and went through the maid’s personal chats and photos. She found some photos of her children uploaded by the maid onto Facebook. Sulis had treated the children as her own.

Nuur Audadi became upset and slapped the maid on her face, drawing blood. She then threw the phone onto the ground, cracking it.

Even after confiscating the mobile phone, she continued to slap Sulis and pulled her hair almost daily for a week.

At the end of that week, Sulis told Nuur Audadi that she had asked her agent for transfer, but Nuur Audadi slapped her on the face again, saying she had paid a lot of money for her.

Around 29 April 2018, Sulis managed to retrieve her mobile phone and hid it somewhere in the flat as she wanted to call the agency to ask for a transfer. When Nuur Audadi realised that she no longer had Sulis’ phone, she questioned the maid, who denied taking the phone.

Angered, Nuur Audadi used a comb and poked the maid on her forehead forcefully. She also slapped the helper, pulled her hair and forced her to search for the phone until about midnight.

That night, she made Sulis sleep in the living room, locking her room door and the main door to prevent her from fleeing.

Escape after non-stop abuse

The next day, as Sulis tidied Nuur Audadi’s bed, the employer pulled the maid’s hair and kicked her on the head a few times. She was annoyed that she could not find her ring and accused Sulis of being jealous of her jewellery.

That night, Nuur Audadi noticed that the maid’s hair was oily and dragged her by her hair to the kitchen toilet and sprayed waste on it. She then told the maid to bathe.

As Sulis prepared milk for the children later that night, Nuur Audadi called her a prostitute and accused her of flirting with her husband.

She asked the victim if her private parts were itchy and if she wanted to seduce her husband. Not understanding the accused and having misheard, the victim replied “yes ma’am”, spurring a furious Nuur Audadi to hit her head and back with a broom.

At about 2am, Sulis decided to escape. As the main door was locked, she climbed out of the unit from the balcony. From balcony to balcony, she went down 15 levels until she reached the ground floor.

She then lodged a police report and on the guidance of her agent.

A charge of voluntarily causing hurt carries a jail term of up to two years, and/or a fine of up to $5,000. As Nuur Audadi is an employer who caused hurt to a maid under her employ, her punishment may be enhanced by up to one and a half times.

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