SINGAPORE: A man and his wife were found guilty on Tuesday (Jun 9) of abusing a maid for about two months until she climbed out onto a window ledge and was rescued by a painter.
The victim, Ms Amandeep Kaur, left her hometown in Punjab, India to work as a foreign domestic helper for Mohammad Tasleem and his wife, Farha Tehseen, both Singapore permanent residents.
However, over two months, she was slapped, punched and hit with items including a rolling pin, a showerhead, a broomstick and a pair of heated tongs.
Most of the abuse was carried out by Farha, 39, who was convicted of 10 counts of voluntarily causing hurt to the maid, who was 27 at the time.
Tasleem was found guilty of two similar charges, for punching the victim on her face and waist.
The couple had contested the charges, but District Judge Shaiffudin Saruwan found that the victim was a credible witness, despite some inconsistencies in her evidence, and found that the prosecution had established its case.
The court heard that Ms Kaur came to Singapore and worked for the couple from Nov 9, 2016 to Dec 31, 2016. They lived with their two sons, then aged six and two.
She signed a contract with Farha saying that she would work for them for two years, and receive her salary of S$400 only from the third month of employment of January 2017.
Her daily chores included cleaning and caring for the two children, including massaging them. She woke at 5am on weekdays and went to bed at 2.30am or 3am, waking later on weekends at 7.30am.
Farha, a housewife, was usually at home while her husband worked 12 hours a day on weekdays.
Ms Kaur testified during the trial that Farha treated her "very badly", beating and scolding her every day. When she asked her why she did this, Farha purportedly said: "Because I'm the one who called for you to come here. I can do whatever I wish onto you."
Ms Kaur also said she initially had a good relationship with Tasleem, but this changed after Farha accused him of an affair with the maid.
THE LIST OF OFFENCES
On the first day of work, Ms Kaur was slapped and punched by Farha.
In December, Tasleem punched Ms Kaur in the eye and kicked her twice on the waist.
That same month, Farha placed a pair of heated tongs on Ms Kaur's right arm because Ms Kaur was placing chapati over a naked flame on the gas stove, and Farha felt the maid was not making chapati properly.
A linear scar on Ms Kaur's arm corresponds with the mark made by the tongs, the prosecution argued.
Farha also hit her multiple times on her arm with a showerhead as she felt Ms Kaur had not managed her sons well enough or bathed them well.
On another occasion, Farha hit the maid with a broomstick, after Ms Kaur asked Farha to turn off the ceiling fan for a while so she could gather up the dust as she swept the living room.
According to Ms Kaur, Farha scolded her: "Why are you asking me this? Who are you in this house?"
She then slapped Ms Kaur and pushed her to the floor, hitting her calves with the broomstick and grabbing her by the neck. She then pushed her against the wall.
THE DAY SHE RAN AWAY
On the last day of December 2016, the day she ran away, Ms Kaur took a breakfast tray into the master bedroom for Tasleem, and Farha asked her to place it on the floor.
When she did so, Farha kicked her twice on her lower back, causing the maid to fall to the floor. She then grabbed Ms Kaur's hair and pulled her out of the room, and punched her nose.
She continued her attack, grabbing Ms Kaur's hair and pushing her so that she hit her head against the wall, before slapping her and throwing her to the floor.
She also used a child's toy, shaped like a stick, to hit the maid's legs, and threatened to beat her with it.
Farha then asked Ms Kaur to iron some clothes. She said that if Ms Kaur was unable to complete the chores - including ironing the bedsheets - in five minutes by the time the family returned from the park, Farha would beat Ms Kaur with the toy stick and throw her out of the window.
If anyone asked what happened, Farha said she would tell them "this girl's mental state of mind was not good". Ms Kaur testified that this scared her, and she thought that her employer would kill her.
When the couple left the flat with their children, they locked the door and left Ms Kaur without the keys. Frightened, she packed her suitcase and went to the window in the hall, placing it on the window ledge.
She perched herself on the fourth-floor ledge, crying as she did. A couple walking by spotted Ms Kaur crying and calling out for help.
The couple stopped her and called out to some workers, who were painting nearby, to help.
Indian national Mani Manoharan used his gondola to take Ms Kaur down. Ms Kaur said that her employers had beaten her, and she was later placed in the care of the Good Shepherd Centre crisis shelter.
The couple denied the charges, claiming that the injuries on Ms Kaur were explained by "her uneven skin tone" or marks sustained while she worked in the fields back in India, or by accident.
They claimed also that Ms Kaur performed poorly in her work, was illiterate, lacked integrity and had a bad attitude. They claimed that they wanted to send her home, but Ms Kaur apparently wanted to falsely implicate them for abuse so she could remain in Singapore.
Farha had a list of complaints against Ms Kaur, claiming that she could not write in any language, could not tell the time properly, "was not hygienic and smelling of cow dung" and criticising the maid's care of Farha's children.
The couple will return to court for mitigation and sentencing on Aug 21.
For each charge of voluntarily causing hurt, they can be jailed for up to two years, fined up to S$5,000 or both. As the victim was a maid, the penalties can be increased for up to one-and-a-half times.