SINGAPORE: The terrible abuse Annie Ee Yu Lian suffered in the months before her death was deliberately and methodically inflicted by her longtime friend Tan Hui Zhen to bring the intellectually disabled 26-year-old under her “complete” control, the High Court heard on Monday (Nov 27).
“This was not the random and uncontrolled response of a disordered mind,” said Deputy Public Prosecutors April Phang and Claire Poh.
Originally charged with murder, Tan, 33, qualified for the defence of diminished responsibility because she was diagnosed with moderate to severe depression and borderline personality disorder.
However, “while mentally impaired at the time of the offence(s), (Tan) still knew what she was doing and knew that her actions were wrongful", Institute of Mental Health psychiatrist Dr Kenneth Koh said in a report.
Dr Koh also stated that Tan “deals with stress in dysfunctional ways", and is “prone to impulsivity, excessive (mood) swings and bouts of severe anger”.
Urging the court to sentence Tan to at least 15 years’ jail, the prosecutors said that “to accept these as mitigating factors would send an undesirable and wrong message that the law condones persons with such personalities to give in to their impulsivity, bad mood and anger”.
Tan, who was dressed in a purple prison jumpsuit, became increasingly emotional as details of her mental and psychological conditions were discussed in court.
She had to be calmed down by a female prison guard, to whom she murmured: “Hold my hand.”
Tan was convicted of reduced charges on Monday, alongside her husband Pua Hak Chuan, 38, who participated in the abuse at his wife’s behest.
Tan and Pua pleaded guilty to four and three charges, respectively, of abusing Annie over eight months, battering her body and mind until she was incontinent and suicidal.
Annie was found dead in her bed on Apr 13, 2015 after a beating the day before.
An autopsy detailed the extent of the abuse she suffered: 12 fractured ribs and seven fractured vertebrae, a ruptured stomach and a body crowded with blisters and bruises.
Annie died of acute fat embolism. She had been beaten so severely on the buttocks that her skin and the layer of fatty tissue below the skin had separated from the muscle underneath. The fatty tissue entered into her bloodstream, clogging Annie’s blood vessels and interfering with the oxygenation of blood in the legs. This led to cardiac and respiratory failure, according to an autopsy report by forensic pathologist Dr Paul Chui.
Even breathing would have been painful for Annie, not to mention the “excruciating” pain she would have suffered from the multiple fractures she sustained from the particularly brutal beating the night before her death, the prosecutors said.
They called for a 14-year jail term and 12 strokes of the cane for Pua, who helped his wife “exploit Annie’s low intellect and social isolation, and manipulated her into thinking that she was insurmountably indebted to them”.
"THEY WERE HER MASTERS"
In addition to the physical and financial exploitation, the couple’s offences are aggravated by virtue of their “unique” relationship with Annie. “They were … her master(s),” the prosecutors said, “and exerted great influence over Annie”.
Annie regarded Tan and Pua in such high regard that she allegedly told Tan that she thought the couple loved her more than her own mother.
“Their control and exploitation of Annie was complete,” the prosecutors said.
Defence lawyers Josephus Tan and Cory Wong said Annie’s death was “unexpected and unintended", and a case of “discipline gone wrong”.
The couple are “very remorseful", the lawyers said, pointing out the couple had divulged the most intimate details of their offending to the authorities. Without their cooperation, “the charges would have been very difficult to prove", they noted.
Tan, who was a housewife, had been abused by her own family, Mr Tan said. She had also suffered three miscarriages.
“Her life … has been arduous and tragic. She has suffered too,” the lawyer said. Dr Koh, the psychiatrist, estimated Tan would need at least a decade of intensive psychiatric treatment to improve her mental state.
As for Pua, he “did not dare to control (his) wife", Mr Wong said.
Now, “he regrets not manning up and putting a stop to (the abuse) before things got out of hand,” the lawyer added, urging the court to consider Pua’s “humane side”. At the time of the offences, Pua worked as a storeman at Borneo Motors.
When the couple discovered Annie dead in her bed on Apr 13, Pua volunteered to take the fall for his wife. He also tore off sheets of shrink wrap in an attempt to destroy evidence before the police arrived, the court heard. “Pua loves his wife and resolves to rebuild his life with her,” Mr Wong said.
The defence urged the court to sentence Tan to not more than 12 years’ jail and Pua to not more than 10 years’ jail and 12 strokes of the cane.
The couple will be sentenced on Friday morning.