SINGAPORE — A domestic helper who dipped a one-year-old girl’s hand into a boiling pot of water had earlier requested for a transfer as she was incapable of caring for the baby.
However Lin Lin Htwe, a Myanmar national was denied the transfer by the agent after she was unable to pay the transfer fee.
The maid, 30, was jailed for 14 months on Wednesday (28 October) after she was caught on video appearing to dip the baby's hand into a pot on a stove several times.
Her lawyer, Lolita Andrew, urged the court to consider the circumstances the maid was placed in, including how the maid came to Singapore while in debt and that she had no outlet for her frustration.
At the time of the incident, the maid was struggling to pacify the child and complete cooking a meal by a specified time.
The lawyer then read out a letter from the maid to the court: “I’m very sorry for the incident. I did not intend to harm or hurt the toddler I was looking after for over a month. However due to pressure and to show pot was hot I did this mistake. Due to my action, it resulted in the injury. I am so sorry to the baby. I have been feeling terrible all this time and I also want to apologise to the parents. I am so sorry and hopefully one day they will be able to forgive me.”
Lin Lin was present in court through a videolink and was heard crying.
The toddler, who cannot be named, suffered second-degree burns from the incident. The girl’s mother, a 40-year-old accountant, posted on Facebook about the incident on 14 January, stating that the family hired the maid about a month before to take care of the baby and her eight-year-old sister, in addition to housekeeping and cooking.
The maid pleaded guilty to one count of voluntarily causing hurt to the 16-month-old girl with a heated substance.
Asked for a transfer
The maid, who was employed on 8 December last year, had asked for a transfer after two weeks of working with the family as she did not know how to care for the baby. However, she was informed by her agent that a transfer to another employer would incur cost, and the maid decided to continue working for her original employer.
On 14 January, Lin Lin was cooking curry chicken at about 5.15pm when the baby began crying. The maid then carried the girl to the kitchen and resumed cooking. The parents of both girls under her care were out at the time, while the girls were at home.
While carrying the baby, the maid felt agitated and moved the girl’s left hand to touch the pot containing hot water and chicken two to three times. The girl’s wrist came into contact with the pot and her fingers touched the hot water. After the first time, the girl burst out wailing.
The act was captured by surveillance footage. After hearing her sister’s cries, the elder girl came out of the bathroom, and the maid told her that the baby had put her hand into the pot.
According to Lolita, Lin Lin placed the baby’s hand under tap water and instructed the elder girl to call her father. She then applied cream to the baby’s injuries, at the instructions of the father.
At 6.30pm, the man returned home and was shocked to see the extent of injuries on his baby’s left hand. He brought her to a clinic nearby and was referred to the Accident and Emergency Department at KK Women's and Children's Hospital.
When the parents questioned the maid on their daughter’s injuries, Lin Lin said she was carrying the baby while cooking and the baby accidentally touched the pot.
The next day, Lin Lin told the girl’s father that she wanted to go home or change employment, and the man became suspicious. He viewed CCTV footage of the act with his wife and discovered that the maid’s actions had been deliberate. They then called the police.
The baby was diagnosed with second degree burns on her left hand. Her wound was dressed and she had to return for outpatient follow-ups three times. The wound had fully healed by 24 January but the girl still suffers a burn scar. The use of her arm or fingers is unlikely to be affected.
Pleading for mercy, lawyer Lolita said that the maid had been made to work seven days a week with no handphone, no outlet to express frustration, and had been fatigued but unable to share her troubles with anyone. She had been able to call her family only once.
However, Deputy Public Prosecutor Jane Lim pointed out that the maid had not been in any way abused by her employers, and that she carried out a very cruel attack on a very vulnerable and defenceless victim.
For causing hurt through a heated substance, the maid could have been jailed up to seven years, or fined. She cannot be caned due to her gender.
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