Jail for woman who abused maid, leaving permanent scars

Anita Damu was also ordered to pay the maid $8,000 in compensation, on top of the $4,000 for loss of income.
Anita Damu was also ordered to pay the maid $8,000 in compensation, on top of the $4,000 for loss of income.ST PHOTO: WONG KWAI CHOW

A 51-year-old woman, who pleaded guilty to five charges of maid abuse in September, was sentenced to jail for two years and seven months yesterday.

Anita Damu created a stir in court at a previous hearing while her lawyer was arguing for a fine instead of a jail sentence for his client. She complained of being giddy and was rushed to hospital.

Yesterday, she requested to sit throughout the hearing, standing up only when sentence was meted out by District Judge Terence Tay.

Anita was also ordered to pay the maid a further $8,000 in compensation, on top of the $4,000 for the loss of income suffered.

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

Anita, who is also known as Shazana Abdullah, would also regulate her food intake, usually providing her with breakfast and dinner in controlled amounts. But, after January 2014, Anita provided her with only lunch and dinner twice or thrice a week.

The abuse escalated to physical abuse. 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.

Once, in May or June 2014, when Anita discovered that the maid had eaten a longan fruit without permission, she splashed hot water on Ms Siti's leg and body.

In August that year, feeling that Ms Siti was working too slowly, she used a hot iron to scald both of the maid's hands.

The abuse came to light on April 23, 2015, after a Ministry of Manpower official visited Anita's home and spoke with Ms Siti.

Anita's defence lawyer said in mitigation that she suffered from a mental illness that contributed to her actions.

The psychotic illness caused her to hear voices and made her perform those acts of abuse.

In sentencing, District Judge Tay acknowledged the existence of her mental disorder, but said that the impact of a mental illness depends from case to case.

He said Anita knew what she did, and knew that it was wrong. This was evident in her telling the maid that she would go to jail if the authorities found out what she did, and instructing her maid to lie to the doctor about how she got the injuries.

According to court documents, these acts of abuse left bruises and permanent scars all over the maid's body and hands.

District Judge Tay also noted the severity of the injuries on the victim, saying that the nature and permanence cannot be ignored.

Anita is currently out on $20,000 bail as she is appealing against the sentence.

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on December 25, 2018, with the headline 'Jail for woman who abused maid, leaving permanent scars'. Print Edition | Subscribe