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Woman admits pressing hot lighter on daughter and abusing maid who climbed out of window to flee

Woman admits pressing hot lighter on daughter and abusing maid who climbed out of window to flee

Photo illustration of an assault. (Photo illustration: Ngau Kai Yan)

SINGAPORE: A woman who was suffering from mental disorders abused her maid physically, once choking her with a towel, and pressed a hot lighter on her own daughter over household chores.

The 41-year-old woman, who cannot be named to protect the victims' identities, pleaded guilty on Friday (Oct 15) to three charges including voluntarily causing hurt to a maid and ill-treatment of a child.

The court heard that the woman stayed with her husband and daughter, now 11, in a flat. The family employed the victim, a 28-year-old Indonesian national, as a domestic worker in March 2017.

She was not given any days off and no access to a handphone, and was tasked with household chores and caring for the accused's daughter.

The prosecutor said there were "no issues" between March and November 2017, although the accused would sometimes reprimand the domestic helper for being slow or making mistakes.

She would wake up at 4.30am and sleep at 12.30am and was not allowed to leave the house unless she was following the accused.

In December 2017, the accused first assaulted the maid by slapping her twice in the face. She began abusing her almost daily the following month, slapping her hand and back and pulling her hair when she made "mistakes" by oversleeping or not finishing her tasks.

The accused told the helper that she expected her to finish all her chores in specific rooms by the time the accused woke up.

TIGHTENED TOWEL AROUND VICTIM'S NECK

On one occasion in January 2018, the accused woke up and saw that the victim had not finished cleaning the living room.

Angered, she scolded her, slapped her face and kicked her leg, causing the victim to fall backwards into a sitting position.

The woman then grabbed her hair and pushed her head into the wall a few times. She then rolled up a towel and wrapped it around the victim's neck, choking her with it. The victim laboured for breath and cried throughout but was eventually released.

In March 2018, the victim slept at 1.30am and woke a while later to do her chores. She dozed off near the kitchen toilet before 5.15am.

When the accused saw her sleeping, she kicked her shoulder and caused her to fall into the washroom. She then assaulted the maid.

After this, the domestic helper decided to escape as she was distraught and could no longer take the abuse.

After checking that her employers were in the room, she climbed out of the kitchen unit and went one floor below into the unit on the fourth floor. 

A bystander saw what happened and called the police. Officers on the scene observed that the maid was distraught, and she was taken to hospital complaining of pain in her ribcage and head.

She was found to have multiple bruises, as well as scratches over her earlobe, forehead and forearms.

ABUSED HER OWN DAUGHTER

The accused then turned her abuse to her own daughter. In October 2019, her nine-year-old daughter was studying for an examination in the living room when the accused asked her to vacuum the floor.

The girl did not do so as she wanted to study first. Her mother then lit candles at an altar in the flat, and pressed the metal tip of the lighter onto her daughter's forearm.

The girl made a video call to her father, crying, and told him that she had a burn on her forearm because her mother had touched her with a lighter. The area on her arm was red and had some blisters.

Concerned, her father immediately called the accused and asked what happened. She replied that she had seen her daughter playing with a lighter and poked her with it to scare her, adding that she did not know it was hot.

The accused was seen by a psychiatrist at the Institute of Mental Health and found to have major depressive disorder with psychotic symptoms and obsessive-compulsive disorder.

Her mental illness played a substantial contributory role to the offences, the psychiatrist found. She became more irritable and less able to control herself, and in one of the incidents, suffered hallucinations - hearing a voice saying the maid would hurt her.

The judge asked for some time to review the sentencing submissions by the prosecution and defence and will deliver his sentence at a later date.

Source: CNA/ll(ac)

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