SINGAPORE - A real estate agent assaulted her mother's Indonesian maid just one month after she started working in the household and repeatedly abused the helper, who was not allowed to communicate with others.
The abuse came to light after a neighbour alerted the police. The neighbour became aware of the abuse after coming across notes written by the maid to her own helper.
During the four-day trial, Ms Ema Rahmawati, 24, testified that Khoo Mee Choo punched her head, hit her with a bunch of chopsticks, kicked her buttocks, pulled her hair and pinched her arm.
District Judge Kan Shuk Weng found Khoo, 64, guilty of five counts of maid abuse and she was sentenced to 28 weeks' jail on Monday (Dec 3).
In his submissions, Deputy Public Prosecutor Kenny Yang told the court that Ms Ema came to Singapore in December 2016 and Khoo started verbally abusing her that very month.
The abuse turned physical by January last year when Khoo pulled the maid's hair, as she felt her work in the Pasir Ris flat was not "up to standard".
Ms Ema testified that Khoo pulled her hair two more times after this - once after she found out that her work table had been moved and also when the maid was moving some potted plants.
The Indonesian told Judge Kan that Khoo had also repeatedly pinched her between January and April last year.
DPP Yang said: "She is able to recall the first incident... after she accidentally splashed water on the accused when she was washing the dishes. She is also able to recall one other incident immediately after she had cleaned the toilet of the accused. Displeased with her work performance, the accused immediately pinched her."
The court heard that Khoo continued abusing the maid until April last year.
Despite Khoo's orders, Ms Ema befriended Ms Atika, another Indonesian maid who worked next door, and secretly passed her notes about her plight.
Ms Atika left Singapore in February last year and her employer found the notes while cleaning her room. The court heard that Khoo's neighbour, known only as "Wendy", began communicating with Ms Ema after that.
DPP Yang said: "The victim started to tell Wendy about the abuse and sought Wendy's assistance. Wendy called for the police after she was concerned about the last note to her from the victim which she recalled stated that the victim was 'unable to take it any more'."
In her defence, Khoo claimed that she neither physically assaulted Ms Ema nor raised her voice at her, alleging that the maid had fabricated the evidence.
In mitigation, defence lawyer Lee Wei Fan told the court that his client, who has been diagnosed with stage three colon cancer, had been under "tremendous stress" and had acted out of character. The lawyer also said that the offences were not premeditated.