SINGAPORE: A woman went on trial on Tuesday (Dec 8) accused of abusing two maids at her home in Sentosa Cove by pinching, hitting and kicking them.
Tan Lee Hoon, 56, is contesting eight charges of voluntarily causing hurt to two Filipino maids working for her household at 24 Paradise Island two years ago.
The court heard that Tan's husband, Mr Sim Guan Huat, employed 33-year-old Lizardo Joan Lozares as a maid in October 2015, before hiring 39-year-old Jenefer Vegafria Arangote as a domestic helper in August 2018.
Tan is accused of pinching Ms Arangote's right bicep, stomach, chest, arm and thigh in September 2018. Tan allegedly hit Ms Lozares' head with her hand and kicked her chest in October 2018, as well as hit her torso with a stick on another occasion that year.
On the morning of Oct 17, 2018, another maid informed the Ministry of Manpower (MOM) that Ms Arangote was being beaten by her employer and claimed to have photos of the bruises.
The police were alerted and took the two maids to the hospital.
IO FIRST TO TAKE STAND
An investigating officer on the case was the first to take the stand for the prosecution on Tuesday.
She described being informed by MOM of the case of abuse and heading down to 24 Paradise Island on Sentosa Cove, where she spoke to the victims and had a police photographer take pictures of locations where the alleged incidents took place. These include a bedroom, a stairway and the living room.
According to the officer's testimony and previous statements that she took from the victims, one of the maids said she was helping Tan put on her footwear when Tan kicked her.
Another victim said Tan asked for a massage, before using her toes to pinch the victim on her wrist.
"One of the victims said she was either asked to take down decorations from a tree or hang something on a tree and something fell, and the defendant got unhappy and caused hurt, but I can't remember what exactly was done to them," said the officer.
She added that there were closed-circuit television cameras installed at various angles in the house. The alleged abuse occurred across two storeys, she said.
However, when the CCTV server was seized, police could not retrieve any footage as there was no hard disk in the server and no video footage stored.
As she thought it was "a bit off", the officer checked with the CCTV camera company that installed the devices. The company's boss said that no changes were made at installation so the CCTV should have all the fittings, including the hard disk, unless the family approached another company to have them removed or modified.
DEFENCE ASSERTS THAT VICTIMS CHANGED STORIES
Defence lawyer Sunil Sudheesan picked at the investigation officer's testimony, comparing her evidence in court with what she asked the victims when she took their statements.
He referred the officer to the allegations of sticks being used on the victims, pointing out that no sticks were seized on Oct 17, 2018, when the officer went to the scene.
"I clarified with (the victims) and they informed (me) that before I brought them away from the unit, the defendant had disposed of all the sticks that were used," said the officer. "They told me there were multiple - so when a stick (was) spoilt, the defendant would ask them to pick (a) new one, then when it breaks, the defendant will ask them to replace it."
The officer said the maids told her that the sticks were either thrown away or hidden, adding that she did not go back to the scene to look for these "weapons", or check the rubbish bins nearby for the sticks.
The defence asserted that the maids had "changed their stories many times", but the investigating officer said she merely recorded what they said. The defence asked if the officer would agree that different versions of the maids' stories were given to her.
"I recorded two statements (from each victim). They did not change, they just added more incidents. With regards to your question, I don't think I can answer that," she said.
The trial resumes on Wednesday, with one of the maids expected to take the stand. If convicted of voluntarily causing hurt, Tan could be jailed for up to two years, fined up to S$5,000, or both, for each charge. As the offences are against maids, she could be given up to one-and-a-half times the original punishment if found guilty.