Singaporean woman pleads guilty to burning daughter, 9, with lighter and choking maid with towel

The woman pressed the metal tip of the hot lighter on the girl’s forearm for about five seconds. ― Unsplash pic
The woman pressed the metal tip of the hot lighter on the girl’s forearm for about five seconds. ― Unsplash pic

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SINGAPORE, Oct 15 — A 41-year-old woman who pressed a lighter on her young daughter’s forearm because the girl did not vacuum the floor pleaded guilty today (October 15) to child and maid abuse crimes.

The woman, who is Singaporean and cannot be named because of a court order to protect her victim’s identities, also once choked her domestic helper with a towel for dozing off. 

The helper was so distraught that she climbed out of the flat’s kitchen window to escape the abuse.

The woman pleaded guilty to two charges of voluntarily causing hurt to her domestic worker, a 28-year-old Indonesian national, and one count of ill-treating her daughter, then 9.

The crimes happened between 2018 and 2019. 

District Judge Eugene Teo adjourned sentencing until October 20 to consider submissions from the prosecution and the woman’s lawyers. 

He will consider two other similar charges during sentencing.

The woman’s lawyer Kalidass Murugaiyan asked the court to assess if she was suitable for probation, a community-based sentence usually reserved for young offenders.

The court heard that the woman was diagnosed with major depressive disorder with psychotic symptoms and obsessive-compulsive disorder. 

A psychiatrist from the Institute of Mental Health, who examined her in February, found that these mental illnesses contributed substantially to her crimes, with the depressive disorder making her more irritable and less able to control her impulses.

On at least one occasion as she was committing an offence, she had hallucinations that her domestic worker could harm her with a knife. 

The psychiatrist also said that her risk of reoffending was low if she continues with her psychiatric treatment.

Choked maid with towel

The court heard that the woman’s maid started working for the household in March 2017. 

She was paid S$580 a month, and was not given any days off or allowed to use a mobile phone.

Her duties included taking care of the woman’s daughter and doing general household chores.

The maid did not have problems with the woman from March to November 2017, though her employer sometimes scolded her for being slow or making mistakes.

Deputy Public Prosecutor Ng Jun Chong told the court that she was required to wake up at 4.30am daily and completed her work at 12.30am. 

She was barred from leaving the family’s fifth-storey public housing flat in Hougang unless she was following her employer out.

The woman first abused her in December 2017 by slapping her face twice, causing her to cry.

The assaults became an almost-daily affair the next month, with the woman slapping her hand or back and pulling her hair over matters such as oversleeping. 

The woman also expected the domestic worker to complete her chores before she woke up.

On one occasion, the maid was cleaning the living room when the woman emerged and saw that she was not done. 

She scolded the helper, slapped her and kicked her leg, causing her to fall backwards.

Grabbing her hair, the woman pushed her head into a wall a few times.

The woman then took a towel and wrapped it around the maid’s neck, choking her. She let go after a few seconds and returned to her room.

The maid cried throughout this episode but did not shout for help.

Climbed out of window

On March 20 in 2018, the maid got only an hour of sleep before waking up at 2.30am to do her chores.

Sometime before 5.15am, she sat near the kitchen toilet and dozed off. The woman saw this and kicked the maid’s shoulder, jolting her awake and causing her to fall.

The woman told her to get up and scolded her for dozing off, then pushed her shoulder and made her fall onto the toilet bowl. 

She also kicked the maid’s legs several times.

Around 1pm that day, the maid decided to escape as she could no longer tolerate the abuse. 

After checking that her employers were in their room, she climbed out of the kitchen window and down to the flat directly below. 

The residents there called the police. 

The maid was taken to Tan Tock Seng Hospital in Novena and was found with many bruises and scratches on her body. 

She was placed under the safe custody of the police that day.

Lied to husband

As for the woman’s daughter, she was studying for her examinations in the living room in October 2019 when the accused asked her to vacuum the floor. 

The girl did not do so because she wanted to study.

When the woman lit some candles at an altar, the girl stood up because she knew that her mother wanted to reprimand her. 

The woman then pressed the metal tip of the hot lighter on the girl’s forearm for about five seconds.

The girl later called her father and cried, saying that she had a burn on her left forearm after her mother touched her with a lighter.

Concerned, he called his wife immediately to ask what happened. 

She lied by saying that she had seen the girl playing with the lighter and poked her with it. She also claimed that she did not know it was hot.

An officer from the Ministry of Social and Family Development took the girl to KK Women’s and Children’s Hospital in Bukit Timah the next day.

She had a burn mark on her wrist and another burn mark there that was nearly healed.

She was discharged and not given medical leave or a prescription.

For voluntarily causing hurt, the woman could receive a jail term of up to two years or a fine of up to S$5,000, or both.

Offenders may receive one-and-a-half times the maximum punishment for crimes that involve a domestic worker. 

For ill-treating a child, she could be jailed for up to four years or fined up to S$4,000, or punished with both. ― TODAY

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