Employer about to be sentenced for maid abuse rushed to hospital during hearing

Anita Damu, 50, was rushed to the hospital in an ambulance after she felt dizzy during her sentencing hearing. ST PHOTO: WONG KWAI CHOW

SINGAPORE - As her lawyer was arguing for her to be given a fine instead of a jail sentence in an abuse case that had left her maid with permanent scars, employer Anita Damu suddenly took ill and had to be rushed to hospital.

The 50-year-old, who was in the dock, told District Judge Terence Tay she felt giddy midway through her hearing on Wednesday (Oct 10). It happened as her lawyer was arguing against imprisonment for her. Prosecutors had earlier proposed a jail term of at least four years.

Judge Tay stopped proceedings to allow her family members, who were in court, to approach her.

An ambulance later took her to hospital. The Singaporean is currently out on bail.

Anita, who is also known as Shazana Abdullah in court documents, had pleaded guilty to five charges of maid abuse during a hearing on Sept 22.

She had abused her maid, Ms Siti Khodijah, periodically for more than a year, depriving her of meals and rest. She also assaulted the Indonesian frequently with household items which included a bamboo pole, slippers and a pair of pliers.

The court heard that soon after Ms Siti was employed by Anita's family in October 2013, the 29-year-old was made to work from 4am to 11pm every day with no rest days.

Anita would also dictate her food intake, usually providing her with breakfast and dinner in controlled amounts.

But after January 2014, Anita would provide her with only lunch and dinner twice or thrice a week.

It was during this period that the physical abuse started. Whenever Anita felt that Ms Siti had made a mistake, she would slap her on her face and body.

She later used pliers to pinch Ms Siti's body, and would also grab a bamboo pole to knock her on her head.

Some time between May and June 2014, an infuriated Anita even splashed hot water on Ms Siti's leg and body, after she learnt that Ms Siti had eaten a single longan fruit without her permission.

In August that year, Anita also used a hot iron to scald both of Ms Siti's hands for working too slowly.

The many months of abuse left bruises and permanent scars all over the maid's body and hands, court papers revealed.

Anita's crimes came to light on April 23, 2015, after a Ministry of Manpower official visited her home and found out about the abuse from Ms Siti. The official made a police report that same day.

Anita later told a police officer that she abused Ms Siti as she was angry that her work performance was not up to her expectations.

In an earlier hearing this year, a district court also heard that Anita had been suffering from major depressive disorder and had psychotic episodes where she heard voices.

On Wednesday, her defence counsel said that her medical condition had caused her to be less tolerant towards her maid.

But Judge Tay said Anita had done everything of her own volition, as her condition did not deprive her of self-control.

"Even if there is less tolerance... it doesn't mean that she has the right to inflict bodily harm," said the judge.

The hearing will continue on Oct 30, as Anita had to be rushed to the hospital.

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