Almost every day for eight months, a couple went to inhumane lengths to inflict physical and psychological torture on an intellectually disabled woman who was living with them in their flat. It got to the point where, unable to take the torture anymore, the victim attempted to take her life by slitting her wrists with a pair of scissors — one day before she passed away in her sleep.
The court heard yesterday that 26-year-old Annie Ee Yu Lian was found dead in her bed on Apr 13, 2015, after sustaining constant abuse at the hands of her “longtime friend”, Tan Hui Zhen, now 33, and Tan’s husband, Pua Hak Chuan, now 38.
Initially charged with murder, the couple pleaded guilty yesterday to reduced charges for torturing Ee, who died from grotesque injuries, including a ruptured stomach, a bruised and blistered body, and fractures to seven vertebrae and 12 ribs.
Tan pleaded guilty to two counts each of causing grievous hurt and causing grievous hurt with a weapon, while Pua pleaded guilty to one count of causing hurt and two counts of causing grievous hurt with a weapon, The Straits Times reported.
According to the prosecution, Ee was “utterly debased”, TODAY said. She had been “pulverized” and “stripped of her money, her dignity, and her will to live”.
Tan was 17 and Ee was 13 when they met in 2001, when Tan was a sales assistant at a clothing shop that Ee’s mother was a regular customer at. Though they lost touch for a while, they struck up their “friendship” again in 2013, when Ee, estranged from her family, moved into the couple’s four-room flat in Woodlands.
At first, the agreement was for her to help out with the housework, but she ended up paying rent of S$500 (US$371) a month and doing chores like cooking and cleaning for the two, Channel NewsAsia noted.
Ee, who held a waitressing job, had to give Tan her entire pay check of S$1,200 (US$890), and was only allowed a weekly allowance of S$50 (US$37), which later decreased to S$30 (US$22).
The abuse began in August 2014, when Tan admitted she slapped Ee several times for a period of five months — first with her bare hands, before progressing to a pair of bedroom slippers. When Tan was tired of the beatings, she would make her husband, the “standby slapper”, take over.
Besides using weapons like a plastic belt, a bamboo stick, a plastic dustbin, and a heavy roll of shrink wrap to hit Ee, Tan also constantly scolded her with words like “pig brain” and forced her to record fake sums of money in Tan’s “book of debts” to make up for every instance of her angering Tan, whom she called jie jie (older sister in Mandarin). Some of Ee’s purported misdeeds included lying and spending too much time in the shower.
Things got worse in December 2014, when Ee started receiving daily beatings until her death. When her colleagues started displaying concern over her bruises, Tan made her quit and find another job. From then on, the pair only hit Ee on her buttocks to make the injuries easier to hide.
The beatings resulted in huge blisters on Ee’s buttocks — one even measured about 8cm in diameter — and her injuries got so bad that the couple had to use sanitary pads to bandage the wounds.
The day before Ee died, she was delirious, suffered numerous rib fractures, had bruises and blisters all over body, and was short of breath and incontinent. While she was lying on the floor in a puddle of her own urine, the couple blamed her for being attention-seeking and punished her for her “bad attitude”.
The duo then beat her with the shrink wrap, threw a plastic dustbin at her so hard that it cracked on impact, and left her on her bed. Ee was lifeless by the time they checked on her the next morning.
To get rid of the fingerprint evidence, Pua tore a layer off the shrink wrap and flushed it down the toilet. Tan called her brother to tell him Ee had committed suicide, then she called the police. When officers arrived at the scene, Tan claimed Ee sustained injuries from her own clumsiness; it was only later that the couple admitted to assaulting her.
According to a psychiatric report from 2015, Tan suffers from several psychiatric conditions, including depression and borderline personality disorder.
Describing their actions as “an appalling case of abuse and cruelty”, prosecutors are asking for a 15-year jail term for Tan and a 14-year jail term and 12 strokes of the cane for Pua.
The couple will be sentenced on Friday.