SINGAPORE: The day before she died in her sleep, 26-year-old Annie Ee Yu Lian tried to kill herself by slitting her wrists with a pair of scissors.
She had “reached the limits of her endurance” after eight months of horrific abuse at the hands of her longtime friend Tan Hui Zhen, 33, and Tan’s husband Pua Hak Chuan, 38, the High Court heard on Monday (Nov 27).
“All Annie wanted from Tan and Pua was acceptance and affection,” Deputy Public Prosecutors April Phang and Claire Poh said. “Yet she died alone and in excruciating pain.”
Annie, who was intellectually disabled, was found dead in her bed on Apr 13, 2015.
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 had been “pulverised", the prosecutors said. She had been “tortured”, “stripped of her money, her dignity and her will to live”, they told the court.
HIT WITH BELT, BAMBOO STICK, SLIPPERS
Besides slapping and punching Annie with their bare hands, the couple’s weapons included a pair of bedroom slippers, a bright red plastic belt, a bamboo stick, a plastic dustbin and a large, heavy roll of shrink wrap.
Annie, who worked as a waitress, was also forced to hand over her entire paycheck of S$1,200 to Tan, who gave her a weekly allowance of S$50, which she later reduced to S$30.
Annie, whom Tan called “pig brain", was also made to record made-up sums of money in Tan’s “book of debts” to “compensate” for every time she angered Tan, whom she called “jie jie" (older sister in Mandarin), by “talking nonsense and telling lies”, the court heard.
Estranged from her family, Annie moved into the couple’s Woodlands flat in late 2013. She agreed to earn her keep by helping with the housework, but ended up cooking and cleaning for the couple on top of paying rent of S$500 a month.
Tan started to abuse Annie in August 2014. She confessed to slapping Annie multiple times over about five months, with her bare hands and then with a pair of bedroom slippers when her palms started to hurt.
Exhausted from beating Annie, Tan would instruct her husband to take over. Pua, who referred to himself as the “standby slapper", would be scolded by his wife if he did not hit Annie hard enough, the court heard.
The abuse escalated. From December 2014 until her death, Annie was beaten daily. When her colleagues started to ask questions about bruises all over her body, Tan forced her to quit her job and found her a new one at another restaurant. The couple agreed to hit Annie on the buttocks so her injuries would be less obvious.
About a month before her death, the couple started to assault Annie with a large, heavy roll of shrink wrap after the bamboo pole snapped. They noticed she seemed afraid of the large roll, which measured 51.5cm by 24cm and weighed about 1.05kg.
In March 2015, Tan noticed a red stain on Annie’s shorts. She discovered multiple blisters on Annie’s buttocks, the largest measuring 7.5cm in diameter. Tan made Annie lie down before she pricked a blister with a needle, breaking it.
So much fluid and blood burst from the blister that Tan, aided by her husband, soaked it up with sanitary pads and panty liners, which they also used as bandages to cover the open wound.
Tan told Annie to lie about the injury, and to tell anyone who asked that she had fallen down. The couple continued to beat Annie on her buttocks.
About two weeks before her death, when they realised Annie was growing increasingly weak, Tan and Pua started to monitor her blood pressure and heart rate.
They even thought about ceasing the beatings until she recovered, but this lasted only two days before Tan resumed hitting Annie for “breaking the rules” by refusing to eat.
When Annie showed up at work on Apr 8 unable to walk properly, her new colleagues started to ask questions and sent her home to rest. Even customers were alarmed by Annie’s state.
Tan told Annie’s colleague that she was “fully OK", that she was acting “like a child", and that she tended to “exaggerate over small issues”.
This was the last time Annie’s colleagues saw her alive.
Annie attempted suicide on Apr 12 by slitting her wrists with a pair of scissors, but was discovered by Pua before she could harm herself seriously. She told Pua she felt “useless” because she did not do what “jie jie” had told her to do.
Over the course of the day, Tan found Annie lying in her urine twice, too weak to stand. She also could not eat or put on her shorts as her buttocks were too raw and swollen.
At about 9pm, Tan and Pua summoned Annie into the living room. By this time, Annie seemed delirious and was panting. She could not sit up straight or explain why she had become incontinent. This angered Tan, who scolded Annie for her “bad attitude” and repeatedly beat Annie’s back with the roll of shrink wrap.
Annie fell onto the floor, and started to crawl towards her bedroom. Pua told her to “stop acting”, and asked if she was “looking for trouble”. He grabbed the shrink wrap and beat Annie’s legs, abdomen, back and buttocks. Unsatisfied, Pua picked up a plastic dustbin and slammed it onto Annie, curled up on the floor.
The plastic dustbin broke from the impact.
Tan helped Annie back into her room. After measuring her blood pressure, the couple went to bed.
When they woke up next morning, Annie was dead.
According to a 2015 psychiatric report, Tan suffers from multiple psychiatric conditions including depression and borderline personality disorder. Pua does not suffer from any mental condition.
First charged with murder, the couple pleaded guilty to reduced charges on Monday. Tan pleaded guilty to four of 14 charges - two counts of causing grievous hurt with a weapon and two counts of causing grievous hurt. Pua pleaded guilty to three out of four charges - two counts of causing grievous hurt with a weapon and one of causing hurt.
They will be sentenced on Friday.