SINGAPORE: An Indonesian domestic helper was sentenced to 10 years in jail on Thursday (Dec 10) for smothering her elderly employer with a pillow, killing her.
Yati, 24, pleaded guilty to one charge of culpable homicide not amounting to murder for causing the death of 76-year-old Aandi Abdul Rahman Rasheeda Begam on Jan 14 last year.
The court heard that as Mdm Aandi lay sleeping in the early hours of Jan 14, Yati gingerly removed the pillow from under the woman’s head before using it to smother her to death. The frail woman, who was wheelchair-bound and suffered from a variety of medical conditions, had tried to put up a struggle but was overpowered by Yati.
After killing Mdm Aandi in the bedroom the two women shared, Yati went to sleep. She awoke the next morning and went about her chores. Mdm Aandi’s dead body was discovered by her daughter-in-law, Mohietheen Fathima Kuny Maidin several hours later.
SHE KILLED TO “WIN MA'AM’S HEART”
The court heard that Yati had decided to kill Mdm Aandi because she thought this would make Mdm Fathima treat her better.
Yati thought that Mdm Fathima did not like Mdm Aandi, because she had told Yati to feed her mother-in-law leftovers and instructed Yati to attend to the children’s needs first, before attending to Mdm Aandi.
The Indonesian confessed that she thought she might be able to “win ma'am’s heart” so that she would “be very kind" and that “everything would change for the best" for her.
The family buried Mdm Aandi the same day she was found dead, but the woman’s body was exhumed just four days later, when Yati admitted to smothering her after Mdm Fathima repeatedly questioned her over the death.
YATI SUFFERED FROM A MENTAL ILLNESS
Upon Yati’s arrest and subsequent psychiatric examination, she was diagnosed with “major depressive disorder with mood-congruent psychotic features”. An Institute of Mental Health report by Dr Stephen Phang found that Yati’s mental illness had “substantially impaired her mental responsibility for her acts in causing (Mdm Aandi’s death)”.
The psychiatrist also recommended at least two years of “robust treatment” for Yati, “without which the risk of further violence, including fatal interpersonal violence would be significant, if not imminent”. Dr Phang added: “(Yati) would be a dangerous individual … if left untreated.”
YATI TRIED TO CONCEAL THE DEATH: PROSECUTION
In court on Thursday, the prosecution urged the court to imprison Yati for between 10 to 12 years, citing aggravating factors in the case. Deputy Public Prosecutors Han Ming Kuang and Chee Min Ping told the court that Mdm Aandi’s killing was premeditated and that Yati had thought carefully about the method in which to kill the woman.
Yati told Dr Phang she decided to smother her, because it would seem “like no other people kill her, but she died herself”.
The DPPs also said Mdm Aandi was a vulnerable victim who was both elderly and handicapped. In fact, her vulnerability was "particularly pronounced” because Yati chose to smother her in the middle of the night and in her sleep, the DPPs said.
EMPLOYER VERBALLY ABUSED YATI: DEFENCE
In mitigation, Yati’s lawyer Mohamed Muzammil Mohamed said his client had been treated badly by her employers. Besides forbidding her from contacting her husband and daughter in Indonesia, Mdm Fathima would only allow Yati to eat leftovers, and constantly humiliated her, he said. The court heard that Mdm Fathima verbally abused Yati, calling her “babi hutan” ("wild pig" in Malay) and “prostitute”.
“For a Muslim to be called such names was derogatory and insulting and most hurting”, Mr Mohamed Muzami said. “Worse was for another Muslim to call (her) such names … but Yati could not do anything and remained helpless”.
Mdm Fathima denies this.
Yati had also attempted suicide, the court heard, as she could not stand Mdm Fathima’s allegations against her. Her employer regularly complained to the maid agency that Yati stole food, jewelry and money.
HUSBAND AND FATHER APOLOGISE
In sentencing Yati to 10 years' jail, Justice Kan Ting Chiu acknowledged that she had committed the offence "while she was suffering from significant mental impairment". However, Justice Kan also noted that Yati had "deliberately and intentionally, and using sustained effort, took the life of an aged and helpless victim".
Speaking to reporters after the sentencing, Yati's father and husband apologised to Mdm Aandi's family for her actions. The Indonesian embassy had arranged for the men to travel to Singapore to attend court.
Her 43-year-old father, a farmer, added that Yati had asked him to pray for her well-being. He advised his daughter to "accept her fate" and to be patient and strong, saying the family will be reunited after she serves her sentence.
Her food vendor husband, 30, said the couple's three-year-old daughter is doing well and is being looked after by Yati's mother.