Woman guilty of maid abuse rushed to hospital during hearing

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 yesterday. 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, for more than a year and deprived her of meals and rest. She had assaulted the Indonesian frequently with household items such as 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. After January 2014, however, Anita would provide her with only lunch and dinner twice or thrice a week.


Midway through the hearing yesterday, accused Anita Damu said she felt giddy. She was later taken to hospital by an ambulance. ST PHOTO: WONG KWAI CHOW

NO RIGHT TO HARM

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

DISTRICT JUDGE TERENCE TAY, on the defence counsel's mitigation that Anita was affected by her medical condition.

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

She later used a pair of pliers to pinch Ms Siti's body and knocked her head with a bamboo pole.

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 the maid had eaten a single longan without her permission.

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

The 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 she had 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 in which she heard voices.

Yesterday, her defence counsel said 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," added the judge.

 

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

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on October 11, 2018, with the headline 'Woman guilty of maid abuse rushed to hospital during hearing'. Print Edition | Subscribe