Abusive maid

Jailed for assaulting employer's mum, 96

A foreign domestic worker who assaulted a sickly 96-year-old woman repeatedly was jailed for 10 months yesterday.
A foreign domestic worker who assaulted a sickly 96-year-old woman repeatedly was jailed for 10 months yesterday. PHOTO: ST FILE

She told police she did it out of frustration; victim was an invalid and bedridden

A foreign domestic worker who assaulted a sickly 96-year-old woman repeatedly was jailed for 10 months yesterday.

Indonesian Murni Panengsih, 25, admitted to five of 15 charges of causing hurt to her employer's mother, who is bedridden, has diabetes and shows signs of dementia.

Deputy Public Prosecutor (DPP) Dora Tay said the victim's daughter confronted the maid in September last year after viewing closed-circuit television footage showing the maid hitting her mother in their home in the Lavender area.

She lodged a police report on Sept 18.

The maid, who had worked for the family since December 2013, was reprimanded once in July 2014 for hitting the victim's head.

The victim's daughter had noticed some bruises on her mother before September, and the victim mentioned "somebody was trying to kill her".

But she thought her mother might have imagined things as the maid had been doing a good job of looking after the victim. She also thought the maid liked the victim.

The maid told police that she had been abusing the victim since May 2014 to vent her frustration.

"The accused was never ill-treated or threatened by the victim or her employers during her employment,'' said DPP Tay.

On Aug 15 last year, the maid was giving the victim water when she used the water bottle to hit her lips. She held the victim's head to keep her from moving. When the victim tried to touch her injured lips, the maid flicked her hands away.

Two days later, while feeding the victim, the maid suddenly grabbed her ears and head, throwing her head onto the pillow a few times. She also struck her in the face a few times.

On Sept 17, she hit the victim's head repeatedly with her elbow. A minute later, she shook the victim's head and pulled her forcefully by the head.

The maid's lawyer Diana Ngiam, who was assigned by Criminal Legal Aid Scheme, said psychiatrist John Bosco Lee, who assessed the maid for free, had diagnosed her with adjustment disorder and stated that her mental illness contributed significantly to her offences.

She said Murni, who has a child, had a very difficult job of caring for an elderly patient with many problems.

But she said that was no excuse for her to have acted the way she did. The maid also wrote a letter expressing her regret and sought forgiveness for her mistakes.

District Judge Low Wee Ping said what was most disconcerting in the case was the victim's advanced age.

Such elderly victims, he said, are unable to comprehend or articulate their distress when domestic workers inflict harm on them.

The maid could have been jailed for up to two years and/or fined up to $5,000 per charge.

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on September 06, 2016, with the headline 'Jailed for assaulting employer's mum, 96 '. Print Edition | Subscribe