For one-and-a-half years, a mother of four subjected her maid to horrendous abuse, pinching her with a pair of pliers, poking her with the metal prong of a bamboo pole and even burning her with an iron.
The injuries were so severe that the Indonesian maid, who was made to sleep on the floor and was fed as little as twice a week, was left with permanent scars all over her body, from her head to her feet.
At the State Courts on Monday (24 December), 51-year-old Anita Damu alias Shazana Abdullah was sentenced to a total jail term of two years and seven months. She was also ordered by the court to pay the victim compensation of $8,000, having already given $4,000 in compensation on her own volition.
In meting out the sentence, District Judge Terence Tay said, “Pictures paint a thousand words. My words cannot describe how serious the injuries (on the victim) are.”
Anita had earlier pleaded guilty to two charges of causing hurt, two counts of aggravated causing hurt and one charge of breaching work pass conditions. Three other counts of causing hurt and one charge of aggravated causing hurt were considered in sentencing as part of her plea bargain.
Anita, who had asked for a fine through her lawyers Ragbir Singh and Sarindar Singh, is appealing against the jail term.
Deputy Public Prosecutors Yang Ziliang and Claire Poh had asked for a total of 4 years’ jail.
Victim fed as little as twice a week
The victim Siti Khodijah, now 29, worked for Anita from 19 October 2013 until 23 April 2015. She was paid $522 a month with no off days and had no access to a mobile phone. She was also not allowed to leave the flat without permission.
In her first year of work, Siti was given a mattress to sleep on. Later, Anita made her sleep only on a blanket on the floor. Anita also restricted Siti’s sleeping hours to 11pm to 4am.
Siti was given breakfast and dinner, in quantities controlled by Anita. After January 2014, the maid was only given lunch and dinner twice or thrice a week.
On one occasion, when Siti tried to take food without asking for permission, Anita slapped her face hard thrice. On another occasion when the maid did so, Anita made her sign a letter stating that if Siti were to report anything about her employer, the maid would be sent to jail for stealing food.
Whenever Siti made a perceived mistake, Anita would scold her, slap her face and use a bamboo pole to knock her head. From January 2014 to 22 April 2015, Anita regularly slapped Siti’s face, doing so about two or three times a week.
On multiple occasions, Anita also used a pair of pliers to pinch Siti’s arms and lower back. The maid would cry out in extreme pain, and be left with red swollen marks. The abuse left permanent marks.
Sometime between May and June 2014, Siti ate one longan without permission as she felt hungry. She denied it when confronted by her employer. Enraged, Anita took a flask and splashed hot water on Siti’s leg and back, causing her to shriek and cry in pain. The abuse left her with burns and scald injuries, and a permanent mark.
Victim’s hands ironed
In August 2014, Anita scolded Siti for ironing slowly, then pressed the iron on the maid’s left hand and wrist, causing her to scream in pain. The skin on the top of Siti’s hand tore away from the burn.
Undeterred, Anita then did the same thing to her maid’s right hand. The skin on that hand also tore away.
As Siti cried from the extreme pain, Anita told her to continue ironing the clothes. The burns and scald injuries left permanent scars.
In January 2015, Anita scolded Siti for making a mistake while hanging clothes using a bamboo pole that had a metal prong with sharp edges. The employer poked the maid’s back and ribs area multiple times with the sharp edges of the metal prong.
Anita also regularly used the pole to poke Siti’s back and stomach. Photos were also submitted to the court showing the marks left on Siti’s body by the poking.
Victim hit with slipper
On 19 April 2015, Siti felt tired and wanted to rest. Anita forcefully hit her face with a slipper repeatedly, causing her nose to bleed.
The next day, a Ministry of Manpower officer visited the flat after receiving a tip off about a case of maid abuse, but no one answered the door. The officer returned on 23 April 2015, and saw that Siti had welts on her face and burn marks on her hands as well as various scars on her back and body.
The officer brought Siti to the void deck and called the police.
On 25 April 2015, Anita told a police officer, “I have completely lost trust in all of my maids. My previous maids were troublemakers and had caused mishaps to me. So with this current maid, I wanted to be firm so that she would not end up being replaced often.”
In mitigation, Anita’s lawyers urged the court to consider that she suffered from major depressive disorder with mood-congruent psychotic features, and that there was a causal link between her mental illness and the commission of her crimes.
While the judge took this into account, he said a stiff sentence was still warranted.
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