Jail for woman who was rushed to hospital during maid abuse hearing in October

Anita Damu, also known as Shazana Abdullah, was sentenced to two years and seven months in jail for five charges of maid abuse.
Anita Damu, also known as Shazana Abdullah, was sentenced to two years and seven months in jail for five charges of maid abuse.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, Anita Damu felt giddy and had to be rushed to hospital.

Nearly two months later, on Monday (Dec 24), she was back in court and sentenced to two years and seven months in jail. The 51-year-old had pleaded guilty to five charges of maid abuse during a hearing on Sept 22.

On Monday, Anita requested to sit throughout the hearing, standing up only when the sentence was being meted out by District Judge Terence Tay.

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

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

Anita, who is also known as Shazana Abdullah, would also dictate 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 single longan fruit without permission, she splashed hot water on Ms Siti's leg and body. In August that year, she used a hot iron to scald both of Ms Siti's hands for working too slowly.

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.

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 that Anita knew what she did, and knew that it was wrong.

This was evident in her telling her 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 appeals against the sentence.