Woman found guilty of 12 charges of maid abuse; security guard hubby convicted of single charge
A woman who used an array of household items – such as a hammer, chopper, bamboo pole and stone pestle or pounder – to hit her Indonesian maid, causing permanent disfiguration, was convicted of maid abuse after a 17-day trial.
Zariah Mohd Ali, 56, was found guilty of 12 charges while her husband, security guard Mohamad Dahlan, 58, was convicted of a single charge of hitting maid Khanifah’s head with the cover of a frying pan at their Woodlands flat some time between June and December 2012.
Both were convicted under the Penal Code, where the penalty for offences committed by employers and their family members against maids is 1.5 times the maximum provisions for similar offences committed against others.
Zariah was found guilty of hitting the back of the maid’s head and her mouth with a hammer, striking her left ear with a bamboo pole, hitting her forehead with a pestle, stabbing her shoulder with a pair of scissors, slashing her forearm with a chopper, and forcefully pushing her left little finger backwards until it broke.
The court heard that Ms Khanifah, now 37, who hails from a village in Indramayu, came to Singapore to work for the couple in end-November 2011. It was her first job here.
Initially, her relationship with the family was good. But some time in June 2012, her relationship with Zariah deteriorated.Her employer began to scold her and subject her to frequent physical abuse.
She hit the maid’s head with a hammer on about five occasions. Once, the victim was cleaning the toilet when Zariah scolded her for not being “clean enough” and for working too slowly. Zariah hit her once on the back of her head “very hard” with the blunt side of the hammer, causing her head to bleed.
The victim was not given any medical attention – only a sanitary pad to stop the bleeding.Her wounds had not healed when Zariah struck her on the head on another occasion.
Ms Khanifah testified that Zariah used the hammer to hit her on the mouth on more than two occasions.
On the first occasion, Zariah scolded her and told her to grin such that her teeth were bared. Her employer then struck her once in her mouth, hitting the top row of her teeth and the middle of her bottom lip. Her gums bled, her lips became swollen and her teeth were slightly loosened. On the final occasion, two of the victim’s teeth broke and another two became detached.
There were two instances of Zariah using a metre-long bamboo pole to hit the maid on her left ear as well as a pestle to hit her on the forehead. The maid also testified that Zariah stabbed her shoulder with a pair of scissors on more than five occasions.
And once, when she was cleaning fish in the kitchen, Zariah scolded her and suddenly slashed her on the left forearm with a chopper.
The offences came to light after the maid was abruptly sent home by the couple on Dec 19 that year.
As she had bruises on her face and head, she was made to wear a long-sleeved shirt, pants and a tudung on the day of her flight. Zariah’s daughter put make-up on her and gave her a pair of prescription glasses. Her injuries were discovered in Indonesia. An Indonesian Embassy staff member lodged a police report on her behalf.
Convicting the couple, District Judge Luke Tan said in his oral grounds that the victim gave a clear, coherent and convincing account of the various times she was assaulted, the manner in which the assaults were carried out, and the weapons used.
He agreed with the prosecution that the victim was in a vulnerable position as she spoke no English, had no friends here and had no means of escape when she was at the couple’s home.
Zariah, who had suffered a stroke and was weak on her left side, had remained silent when her defence was called. Mohamed took the stand. Their defence was that the maid had lied about her abuse and that her injuries were self-inflicted.
The prosecution had argued that the forensic evidence was consistent with the victim’s account of systematic and repeated abuse perpetrated over a period of time.
Mohamad’s post-event conduct in seeking to settle the matter privately and to prevent escalation of the matter, was also strongly demonstrative of the couple’s guilt.
The case is adjourned to Nov 23 for the prosecution, led by Deputy Public Prosecutors Sharmila Sripathy-Shanaz and Jason Nim, to decide on Zariah’s remaining 16 charges of maid abuse and two charges of failing to provide the maid with enough food and rest daily.
The couple are represented by Mr K. Jayakumar Naidu.