SINGAPORE: A couple have been accused of abusing their maid from Myanmar, who was allegedly forced to drink water mixed with floor cleaner and pour hot water over herself, a court heard on Monday (Jan 8).
Linda Seah Lei Sie, 38, faces six charges for the alleged abuse, which took place in 2016.
She has been accused of assaulting Myanmar national Phyu Phyu Mar, who is in her 20s, by grabbing the helper by her hair and "shaking her until quite a lot of her hair fell out", the court heard during the trial.
Seah also allegedly forced Ms Phyu Phyu to pour hot water over her own body and drink water mixed with floor cleaner.
Seah's husband, 43-year-old Lim Toon Leng, is also on trial for allegedly punching Ms Phyu Phyu twice on her forehead on Oct 13, 2016, the day before the police came knocking.
The alleged abuse came to light after an employee at Lim’s beauty salon, Anew Me Beauty Aesthetic, lodged a police report on Oct 14.
Ms Lee Lee Yen, now an insurance agent, said Ms Phyu Phyu had previously complained to her that she had “no food to eat”.
“She was hungry … I secretly gave her some biscuits and a drink,” Ms Lee said. She added that the helper, whom Ms Lee described as “chubby”, had lost weight while working for the Lim family.
Ms Lee also recounted how she noticed that Ms Phyu Phyu had a swollen and bruised left eye on Oct 14.
Seah - who managed her husband's salon - had brought Ms Phyu Phyu to the shop that day.
Ms Lee told the court she had asked Ms Phyu Phyu about her apparent injuries discreetly, as Seah had told her employees not to talk to the maid because it “irritated” her.
When Ms Lee offered to help Ms Phyu Phyu, the helper asked only that she tell Seah to stop treating her unkindly, because she hoped to continue working for the Lim family.
However, Ms Lee, afraid of losing her job, kept mum and did not raise the subject with Seah. Instead, she called the police.
The report Ms Lee lodged on Oct 14 was the second concerning Seah’s alleged abuse of Ms Phyu Phyu.
The court heard that another employee, Maggie, had previously asked a stranger to lodge a report on her behalf, as she was worried about Ms Phyu Phyu yet afraid of losing her job.
Ms Lee has been Seah’s friend for about 10 years; she was also one of Seah’s bridesmaids when she married Lim in 2010. Seah was a good friend and employer, Ms Lee said.
Seah’s lawyer, Ms Kasturibai Manickam, suggested that Ms Phyu Phyu’s weight loss may have been the result of the maid wanting to “reduce her size”.
Ms Manickam also argued that Ms Lee “cannot be sure” that Ms Phyu Phyu’s injuries were not self-inflicted, or that Seah had deprived her of food, since Ms Lee never asked Seah.
In addition to Ms Lee, two police officers who responded to her call on Oct 14 gave their testimonies on Monday.
Both said Ms Phyu Phyu appeared nervous and did not tell them about the abuse, possibly because her employers were close by.
The trial continues on Tuesday.
Ms Phyu Phyu is expected to testify against her former employers during the second tranche of the trial in April.
If convicted of maid abuse, Seah and Lim face up to three years’ jail and a fine of up to S$7,500 per charge.