SINGAPORE — Unsatisfied with her domestic helper’s standard of work, a woman instructed her to punch herself in the mouth.
When Mun Sau Yeng saw that the maid’s teeth had not fallen out, she asked the Indonesian to use a meat pounder to hit her teeth some 50 times until three teeth loosened.
That was not enough for Mun, who then took the meat pounder herself and whacked the maid’s teeth, causing one on her lower jaw to chip off.
Satisfied, Mun, 40, then left 25-year-old Yuni Dwi Lestari alone.
The incident was one of many instances of abuse across 2018 and 2019 that Mun admitted to inflicting on the domestic helper at the State Courts on Wednesday (18 March).
Mun also pleaded guilty to punching the maid on both her cheeks several times before instructing the maid to punch herself on the same area 50 times. On another occasion, she punched the maid on her mouth and chin 10 times, causing some of her other teeth to become loose – a charge which she also admitted to.
Another four charges, also involving causing hurt to the helper, will be taken into consideration when Mun is sentenced. These involve using a vacuum nozzle to hit the maid’s shoulder, using her fist to hit the top of the helper’s head, punching the maid’s cheeks 10 times and punching the maid on her left cheek.
Mun’s lawyer, Kalidass Murugaiyan told the court that his client had Major Depressive Disorder and Obsessive Compulsive Disorder, and had a history of mental illness for the past 15 years. These psychiatric conditions contributed significantly to Mun’s offending conduct, said the lawyer.
Told maid to punch herself 50 times
The maid had been working for Mun since April 2018 – two months before the abuse began.
In November 2018, the helper wanted to eat a can of sardines at the kitchen for lunch and Mun became angry. The employer had intended for the maid to eat the sardines for dinner instead.
She punched the maid several times on both cheeks. Then, she instructed the maid to punch herself on the same area some 50 times. She believed the maid would remember the pain better if she punched herself.
Though reluctant, the maid complied and was made to count the punches. Even after her cheeks bruised and swelled, Mun did not bring her to see a doctor as she knew she was in the wrong. She even told the maid to tilt her head for the rest of the day so that her husband would not see the injuries.
On 3 February last year, after noticing fingerprints on the kitchen windows, Mun instructed the maid to clean the markings.
However, Mun still noticed fingerprints the next day. She confronted the maid and shouted, “I want your teeth drop one!”, according to Deputy Public Prosecutor Muhamad Imaduddien.
“Her intent was to see one of the victim’s teeth to be dislodged and to ‘drop’ onto the floor,” said the prosecutor.
The maid pleaded with Mun to save her teeth and said her parents would pay her some money – to no avail.
She told the maid to pull her lower lip down and punch her teeth with her other hand. The maid did so for 15 minutes and her lips began to swell.
When she noticed that the maid’s teeth were still intact, Mun told her to use a meat pounder from the kitchen drawer. The maid hit her own teeth with the meat pounder some 50 times until she felt three loosen.
However, Mun was still not satisfied. She took the meat pounder, pulled down the maid’s lower lip with a piece of tissue and hit her teeth once. One of the tooth from the maid’s lower jaw chipped off and she picked it up. Mun then told the maid to throw it away before she left the maid alone.
The maid did not see a doctor as Mun was afraid of getting into trouble.
On 7 February last year, Mun returned home and saw dust in the flat. She punched the maid’s mouth some 10 times, causing the maid to bleed. The maid’s teeth again loosened. Mun then asked the maid to apply ointment but did not bring her to a doctor.
Unable to take the abuse, the maid called the Centre for Domestic Employees on 15 February. She was conveyed to a hospital on the same day. She was found with facial bruises and a chipped tooth.
Mun spends hours cleaning house, hoards cleaning products
While the prosecution called for 15 months’ jail, lawyer Murugaiyan sought to call for a probation report for Mun, whose case he described as “very unique” given her serious psychiatric conditions. The lawyer tendered three medical reports, one from the Institute of Mental Health, which detailed his client’s conditions.
The IMH report dated 3 July 2019 stated that for Mun, “depression and OCD likely contributed significantly to impaired self-control in the material time” as she had “heard an inner voice asking her to hit victim”.
A psychiatrist from the Singapore General Hospital also assessed that Mun had been feeling depressed for two years and had thoughts of suicide, but was determined to live for her young children. Both children were in court on Wednesday, along with Mun’s husband and family friend.
Mun also spends hours cleaning the house and would shower for up to 45 minutes. She would later spend hours cleaning up the toilet rather than spend time with the family. To Mun, the maid did not meet her standard of cleanliness despite mopping the floor at least twice a day, said the lawyer.
Mun was also compelled to buy large quantities of cleaning products so that her storeroom was filled with toilet paper and detergent.
Mun had been suffering from depression since 15 years ago and had a relapse, said the lawyer. She has since been seeking treatment and started on medication from May last year.
“Her family is fully supportive. Her husband and family are fully committed to ensuring that she is rehabilitated into the community. Madam Mun continued treatment and improved greatly, the family and everyone noticed that her persona has gone back to normal,” said the lawyer.
Mun will return to court on 6 May for a further mention on issues of sentencing.
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