Woman repeatedly punches and hits maid’s eyes, causing her to go blindjessie tan
Over a period of six months, a woman abused her Indonesian domestic helper by punching her repeatedly and using a clothes hanger to hit her eyes, causing her to permanently lose sight in both eyes.
Ummi Kalsum Ali, 43, on Tuesday pleaded guilty to six charges, including voluntarily causing grievous hurt to a maid and ill-treating a maid by neglecting to give her medical attention. Other charges will be taken into consideration during sentencing.
The court heard that the victim, Ms Sugiyem Samad Radimah, 51, started working for Ummi as a domestic helper sometime in August 2019.
In April 2020, when Ummi saw that the victim was not wearing a hijab, which led to her ears being exposed, she slapped her face and ears repeatedly, causing her left ear to swell up and harden.
Despite observing that Ms Sugiyem’s left ear was swollen, Ummi did not provide any medical aid and did not bring her to a doctor.
Deputy Public Prosecutor Yang Ziliang said that as a result of the accused’s multiple assaults on the victim’s ear, the victim sustained hurt in the form of a left ear deformity.
During the same incident in April 2020, Ummi directly punched both of the victim’s eyes repeatedly. Ms Sugiyem attempted to shield her eyes from Ummi’s blows, but the latter grabbed and pulled down one of her hands and continued to punch both of her eyes.
The victim suddenly lost vision in her right eye after one of the accused’s punches to it, said DPP Yang.
Ummi then used her mobile phone and a clothes hanger to hit Ms Sugiyem’s head, shoulder and back. When the victim fell to the ground during the assault, Ummi pulled her ponytail and tried to make her stand. Ummi then continued hitting the victim with a clothes hanger until it broke.
This incident led to Ms Sugiyem completely losing sight in her right eye. A few days later, she told Ummi that she had become blind in her right eye and wanted to see a doctor.
“The accused, however, denied her request to seek medical attention and threatened her that if she left the house, she could no longer return,” said DPP Yang.
Between April 2020 and September 2020, Ummi continued hitting both of the victim’s eyes, despite knowing that she had completely lost vision in her right eye. After one of the assaults, Ms Sugiyem completely lost vision on her left eye.
After becoming completely blind as a result of these assaults, Ms Sugiyem had to touch the walls and floor to feel her way around the house, while continuing to do household chores.
When Ummi realised the victim could not see at all and in order to get her to do certain chores, she would tap Ms Sugiyem with a hanger to warn her against touching certain objects that were dirty and to direct her to wash her hands.
In October 2020, the victim was sent back to Indonesia. Her injuries were eventually discovered after she returned to Semarang. She was then flown back to Singapore to assist in investigations.
Ms Sugiyem weighed 52.8kg on February 2021. Her weight was 76kg in July 2019 when she went through a pre-employment medical check-up mandated by the Ministry of Manpower (MOM).
Ms Sugiyem was also given medical attention in Singapore, but her blindness is irreversible, the court heard.
In several closed-circuit television (CCTV) videos played in court, the victim was shown crawling on the ground as she tried to make her way in through the kitchen. When the victim accidentally touched the accused’s husband, he shouted loudly at her. The court heard that he is not facing any charges.
The case is handled by DPPs Yang and Phoebe Tan, as well as a Ministry of Manpower prosecutor.
Seeking 10 years’ jail, the DPPs said the victim came to Singapore to work and earn an honest living but was unfortunately subjected to prolonged physical abuse.
Defence lawyer Sui Yisiong of Harry Elias Partnership argued that there were CCTV videos that showed the victim may not have been completely blind.
Senior District Judge Bala Reddy said the accused had already admitted to the victim being irreversibly blind, and asked if the accused was saying that the victim was acting in these CCTV videos.
Mr Sui said the victim was not acting per se but that there was a video showing the victim avoiding Ummi.
Judge Reddy stood the case down to the afternoon.