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The Straits Times
March 7, 2023
Soon after their maid started working for them, a family began a reign of terror by slapping and hurting her with a heated iron and knife.
Deputy Public Prosecutor Derek Ee said on Tuesday the abusers were Tan Huat, 70; his wife Tan Ai Tee, 68; and their daughter Tan Pei Ling, 46.
He said the Indonesian maid, Ms Heni Rahayu, 27, usually started work at around 6am and would often go to bed at only between 2am and 4am.
She had no days off and was not allowed to leave her tormentors’ Ang Mo Kio flat on her own.
Ms Heni also could not contact her agency as she had no access to a mobile phone.
Her plight came to light when a neighbour alerted the police about a possible case of maid abuse.
Events manager Tan Pei Ling, who splashed hot coffee on Ms Heni and assaulted her with a heated iron, pleaded guilty to two assault charges. She was sentenced to 20 months’ jail.
Her mother, who assaulted Ms Heni with a knife, drawing blood, was given nine months’ jail after pleading guilty to an assault charge.
Tan Huat, who employed Ms Heni on Jan 13, 2020, was sentenced to three weeks’ jail for slapping her.
It was Ms Heni’s first time working in Singapore. After about a week, she told Tan Huat she wished to return to her agency as she felt his wife and daughter were never satisfied with her work performance.
The family started abusing Ms Heni soon after.
She was cutting vegetables between April and June 2020 when Tan Ai Tee felt she was too slow.
She scolded Ms Heni, grabbed the knife from her right hand and pierced it near the wrist with the sharp tip of the knife, causing the hand to bleed.
“Ai Tee used tissue paper to stop the bleeding and Pei Ling subsequently applied antiseptic medication on her open wound.” said DPP Ee, adding that Ms Heni was not taken to see a doctor.
On other occasions, the elderly woman knocked Ms Heni’s head with her fist and used a plastic pail to hit her head and body.
Around June 2020, Tan Pei Ling used a plastic chair and a metal pole to hit the maid’s body, leg and neck.
The same month, her father slapped Ms Heni’s mouth twice with his right hand.
“After slapping the victim, Huat told the victim that if Ai Tee or Pei Ling was talking to her, she had to reply instead of keeping quiet. This was the only time that Huat hit the victim during her employment,” DPP Ee told the court.
On July 23, 2020, Ms Heni was still doing her chores at around 2.30am when she felt hungry and sleepy. She went to the kitchen to make herself a cup of coffee.
While she was mixing the hot coffee, Tan Pei Ling entered the kitchen and became angry with her for taking the coffee.
DPP Ee said she snatched the cup of hot coffee from Ms Heni’s hand and splashed it on the maid’s face and body.
She then told Ms Heni to iron all the clothes in the living room and that she would not be allowed to sleep or eat if she failed to complete the task by 5am.
The maid was still ironing the clothes at around 4am when Tan Pei Ling asked her if the iron was hot enough. She then picked up the hot iron and placed it on Ms Heni’s right forearm for one to two seconds, leaving behind a burn mark.
A neighbour who heard shouting from the Tans’ flat alerted the police at around 5.50am, and officers arrived about 10 minutes later.
Ms Heni was taken to hospital with multiple injuries including facial bruises and burn marks.
Tan Huat began serving his sentence on Tuesday.
Tan Pei Ling’s bail has been set at $20,000, while her mother was offered bail of $15,000.
The two women are expected to surrender themselves to the State Courts on April 3 to begin serving their sentences.