SINGAPORE: A woman abused her maid over eight months, asking her to punch herself in the face 50 times and use a meat pounder to hit her mouth until a tooth “dropped”.
The victim struck her own mouth with the pounder about 50 times, but her teeth did not fall out. Three were loosened and one chipped.
Her employer, 40-year-old Mun Sau Yeng, admitted on Wednesday (Mar 18) to one charge of voluntarily causing hurt by dangerous means to a maid and two charges of voluntarily causing hurt.
Another four charges of hurting the 25-year-old Indonesian maid will be taken into consideration for sentencing.
The court heard that the victim, Ms Yuni Dwi Lestari, began working for Mun, a housewife, in April 2018.
According to the defence, Mun suffers from Obsessive Compulsive Disorder (OCD) and depression and was prone to excessive cleaning.
She felt the victim was not able to match her own cleaning standards, said lawyer Kalidass Murugaiyan.
The abuse began two months into the job, with Mun using the floor nozzle of a vacuum cleaner to hit the victim’s shoulder, causing a slight bruise. In July 2018, Mun struck the victim’s head with her fist.
The offences escalated in November 2018, when Ms Yuni was hungry and ate a can of sardines for lunch.
Mun was angry when she found out, as she had planned for the maid to eat the sardines for dinner instead.
Mun punched the victim several times on both cheeks, said Deputy Public Prosecutor Muhamad Imaduddien.
She then instructed the victim to use her own fists to punch her own cheeks for about 50 times, because she felt Ms Yuni would remember the pain better if she punched herself.
The maid was reluctant but complied, using both her fists to punch her own cheeks, counting until she hit 50, as Mun instructed.
After this, Ms Yuni’s cheeks swelled and were bruised, but Mun did not take her to see a doctor.
She also instructed the maid to tilt her head downwards for the rest of the day as she did not want her husband to see the injuries.
THE MEAT POUNDER INCIDENT
On Feb 3, 2019, Mun noticed fingerprints on the kitchen windows and asked Ms Yuni to clean them, but saw that they were still there the next day.
She asked Ms Yuni why she did not clean the windows properly and grew angry, shouting at her: “I want your teeth drop one.”
Ms Yuni pleaded with Mun, saying she would ask her parents to pay Mun money instead. However, Mun refused and insisted that she wanted Ms Yuni’s teeth to “drop”.
She then instructed the maid to use one hand to pull down her lower lip and use the other to punch her own teeth. Ms Yuni did so for about 15 minutes until her lips began swelling.
When Mun noticed that her maid’s teeth had not dropped, she instructed the Indonesian to take a meat pounder from the kitchen drawer and forced her to use the pounder to strike her own teeth.
Ms Yuni struck her mouth with the meat pounder 50 times, but her teeth did not drop as Mun wanted.
However, after 50 strikes, Ms Yuni felt that three of her lower teeth had loosened.
Seeing that no teeth had dropped from the maid’s mouth, Mun took the meat pounder, pulled down Ms Yuni’s lip and struck it once with the instrument.
One of the maid’s teeth was chipped off. The victim picked up the broken tooth piece, and Mun asked her to throw it away.
Satisfied, Mun left the victim alone, but did not take her to a doctor or get any medical help as she was afraid of getting into trouble.
The abuse continued a few days later on Feb 7, 2019. The victim finished some chores and called Mun on the phone to ask if she could start ironing the clothes.
Mun did not allow it and told Ms Yuni that if she were to return home to find dust in the house, the victim would “know what will happen”.
When Mun got home that evening, she found dust in some parts of the flat. She punched the victim’s mouth about 10 times until she bled. Her teeth became loose and she was in pain.
After Mun stopped her assault, she asked the victim to apply ointment on her injuries, but did not take her to a doctor.
The next week, Ms Yuni called the Centre for Domestic Employees to seek help for physical abuse and a woman from the centre called the police.
The prosecutor pushed for at least 15 months’ jail, saying Mun had “perversely and sadistically bullied the victim to hit herself with a meat pounder”.
This was after Ms Yuni pleaded with Mun that she would ask her parents to pay money so that Ms Yuni would not have to hit her teeth.
“The victim continues to bear the scar of a chipped tooth till today, a lasting reminder of the abuse she suffered,” said the prosecutor.
Defence lawyer Kalidass Murugaiyan urged the court to call for a probation suitability report instead.
ACCUSED SUFFERED PSYCHIATRIC PROBLEMS OVER A DECADE: DEFENCE
The defence said his client has suffered from “serious psychiatric problems” for more than a decade and tendered three psychiatric reports.
He said a report from the Institute of Mental Health found that Mun suffers from depression and OCD, and that this likely contributed significantly to her impaired self-control at the time of the offences.
Mun also reported that she heard a voice telling her to hit the victim, said Mr Kalidass.
He said prevention should be the way forward, suggesting that Mun be placed on a long rigorous programme where she receives treatment.
He cited a report from Singapore General Hospital that assessed Mun in February 2019.
It said she had been feeling depressed for two years and felt life was meaningless, but was determined to live on for her children.
The report added that she spends up to five hours a day cleaning the house, and that her compulsion meant she would rather clean the toilet after showering than spend time with her family.
Her storeroom was filled with items like toilet paper and detergent, said the lawyer.
“There’s a correlation,” he said. “She’s obsessed with cleaning and she felt her domestic helper wasn’t matching up to her usual standards.”
Mun started on her medication in May last year and has responded well, said the lawyer, adding that she had a breakdown after being charged for the offences and was rushed to IMH.
In reply, the prosecutor said the reports tendered by the defence did not explain how the psychiatric conditions contributed to the offences. He added that there was no objective evidence that there was an inner voice telling Mun to hit the victim.
The judge adjourned mitigation and sentencing to May.
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