Jail for pregnant S'porean who made helper eat dirty cotton wool & hair from toilet floor

The woman was sentenced to eight weeks jail and ordered to pay the victim S$3,200 in compensation or serve another 16 days' jail in default.

Andrew Koay | May 05, 2021, 04:56 PM

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A 35-year-old Singaporean mother of three has admitted to physically abusing her migrant domestic worker and forcing her to eat dirty objects.

According to CNA, Tan Hui Mei — who is currently pregnant with her fourth child — was sentenced on May 5 to eight weeks' jail, and ordered to pay the victim S$3,200 in compensation or serve another 16 days' jail in default.

Tan had previously pleaded guilty to two charges of voluntarily causing hurt to her 26-year-old Indonesian helper.

One other charge of voluntarily causing hurt, and two charges of causing distress were taken into consideration during sentencing.

Physical abuse

Court documents seen by Mothership show that the helper started working for Tan's family in November 2018.

She was paid S$600 a month to cook, perform household chores, and look after the family's toddler.

One of the incidents of abuse took place on the morning of Mar. 30, 2019, after Tan confronted the helper over why she had not attended to the family's crying toddler.

Unsatisfied with the helper's explanation, Tan slapped the woman twice across the face and struck her forehead thrice, causing it to swell.

The next day at about 11pm, Tan called the Indonesian woman to massage her legs. Tan complained that they were aching and thus hindered her from falling asleep.

When the victim fell asleep in the midst of the massage, Tan pinched her forearm and caused a bruise.

The victim apologised to Tan and continued to massage her legs.

On another occasion sometime between January and February 2019, Tan hit the domestic worker on the head with a plastic hanger.

Forcing the helper to eat hair

Charge sheets also showed that Tan had twice forced her employee to ingest dirty and inedible objects.

One incident saw her instructing the helper to eat hair off the toilet floor, while in the other, she made the woman eat dirty cotton wool.

Both times, court documents recorded that Tan made sure to watch the helper place the objects into her mouth, causing the Indonesian woman distress.

The abuse was brought to an end after the victim's sister — who had been told about the March 2019 incidents — called the Centre for Domestic Employees for help.

Police subsequently visited Tan's house on Apr. 2, 2019, and the victim was conveyed to Changi General Hospital to be seen by a doctor.

"I don't wish to give birth in prison"

Deputy Public Prosecutor Kathy Chu noted that during investigations, Tan had been uncooperative with the police and denied committing the offences.

"She was not remorseful," Chu wrote in her sentencing submissions.

The prosecution asked for the courts to hand Tan an aggregate sentence of at least 12 to 15 weeks’ imprisonment and a compensation order of at least S$3,200.

Part of the compensation was meant to cover the lost of prospective earnings for the helper, who took seven months to find new employment.

CNA reported that Tan asked the judge for leniency by acknowledging her wrongdoing, and cited her children and elderly mother as needing care.

"I also don't wish to give birth in prison and be separate from my children," she said.

However, the judge said that jail sentences were the norm for migrant domestic helper abuse cases.

Top image by EThamPhoto via Getty Images