Woman: Maid abused my elderly mum behind my back
Daughter of bedridden woman who was slapped, punched by maid for over a year says her mother feared for her life
The maid had been looking after her elderly mother for almost two years, and they seemed to get along well.
It never occurred to the daughter, who wanted to be known only as Ms L.C. Ng, that it was all an act.
The reality was that, behind her back, Indonesian national Murni Panengsih, 25, repeatedly abused her 96-year-old mother.
The maid slapped and elbowed her, pulled her hair, and, on one occasion, even stuck medical tape over her mouth before beating her.
The abuse came to light after Ms Ng checked a live feed from closed-circuit television (CCTV) cameras in the three-room flat in Lavender.
On Monday, Murni was sentenced to 10 months' jail after pleading guilty to five of 15 charges related to hurting the elderly woman.
Ms Ng told The New Paper yesterday evening: "You would never think that somebody who looks so harmless and acts so sweetly towards your mother could do such evil things behind your back."
The IT consultant in her 50s said she had never suspected the abuse going on in her home because Murni would "sayang" (Malay for love) her mother whenever she was around, and would even ask to sit next to the old woman at meal times.
"I feel so silly, thinking back. She must have threatened my mother and deliberately kept close to her," said Ms Ng
She had hired Murni (below) in December 2013 to take care of her mother, who was bedridden and suffered from weak kidneys and diabetes.
Her mother also showed signs of dementia, but was never formally diagnosed.
Her mother died in December last year, following a urinary tract infection, about three months after the abuse was discovered.
Ms Ng had on occasion noticed bruises on her mother's hands and face, but Murni would feign ignorance when she was questioned about them.
Her mother never said a word about being ill-treated, so Ms Ng thought she must have hurt herself accidentally.
"My mother had previously said that someone was trying to kill her, but she would occasionally imagine things, so my elder brother and I thought she was confused," said Ms Ng.
"If she had just said something about being ill-treated, we would have done something about it."
Ms Ng finally found out about the abuse on Sept 17 last year when she decided to check the live CCTV feed on her mobile phone while at work.
She had installed CCTV cameras in the flat a few years ago after a previous maid was discovered to have brought male strangers home.
Ms Ng said she usually checked the live feed once in a while, but had never seen Murni ill-treating her mother until that afternoon when she hit the elderly woman multiple times.
"I phoned her immediately and shouted at her.
"Afterwards, she WhatsApped me to apologise."
Ms Ng started reviewing past video footage and discovered that Murni had abused her mother on many occasions.
Her brother went to the flat to check, but their mother and the maid both said nothing had happened.
When Ms Ng returned home later that evening, she asked her mother about Murni in the latter's presence.
"My mother said good things about her, even that she was well-behaved. When I heard that, my heart ached so much," she said.
"My mother was quite an outspoken woman, and it was beyond my imagination that she would be reduced to that state because she feared (Murni)."
When Murni went to take a shower, Ms Ng told her mother that she knew about the abuse and would make a police report and send the maid away.
"She said, 'Good. You saved my life.' Hearing those words was so painful, I don't know how long she suffered under that woman," said Ms Ng, who broke down halfway through the interview.
She made a police report the next day.
Her mother was examined at a nearby clinic and the doctor found that she had a black eye, bruising all over her face and arms, an abrasion on her right ear, and swelling and bruising on both ankles.
The medical report said the locations and nature of the bruising were consistent with an assault or repeated violence.
Ms Ng said her mother must have been traumatised because she never spoke of the abuse even after Murni left.
"I can only say that I'm glad Murni got caught so other people will not suffer under her hands."
VIOLENT: Footage from the CCTV showing Murni grabbing the elderly woman's shirt and shaking her (above) and elbowing the victim in the face . PHOTO COURTESY OF L.C. NG
VIOLENT: Footage from the CCTV showing Murni grabbing the elderly woman's shirt and shaking her and elbowing the victim in the face (above). PHOTO COURTESY OF L.C. NG
My mother had previously said that someone was trying to kill her, but she would occasionally imagine things, so my elder brother and I thought she was confused.
- Ms L.C. Ng
My mother was quite an outspoken woman, and it was beyond my imagination that she would be reduced to that state because she feared (Murni).
- Ms L.C. Ng
Maid jailed 10 months for 'reprehensible' assault
She was never ill-treated or threatened by her employer or her employer's elderly mother.
Yet she started abusing her elderly charge in May 2014 to vent her frustration.
For that, Murni Panengsih, 25, was jailed for 10 months on Monday after pleading guilty to five out of 15 counts of repeatedly assaulting the sickly woman.
Court documents said that Murni was employed in December 2013 to look after the 96-year-old victim who was bedridden and had several ailments.
The abuse came to light in September last year after her employer, the victim's daughter, saw her hitting her mother while viewing a live feed from CCTV cameras installed in the flat in Lavender.
Murni was found to have hurt the elderly woman between July 2014 and September 2015, during which she repeatedly slapped, shook and punched the woman all over her face and body.
She even used a water bottle and towel to hit the victim, and on separate occasions forcefully pressed and elbowed her face.
Court documents said that Murni, who was born in central Java, arrived in Singapore in October 2013.
Defence lawyer Diana Ngiam, who acted pro bono for the maid, said psychiatrist John Bosco Lee had diagnosed her to be suffering from adjustment disorder, which had contributed significantly to the offences.
'COULD NOT CONTROL EMOTIONS'
Murni readily admitted to hitting the victim, and told Dr Lee that she liked her elderly charge but was "not really sure why she did it", said the forensic psychiatric report.
She also said she was isolated from social and family support since coming to Singapore, and was upset and could not control her emotions at the time.
She added that since the mother returned home after being hospitalised in June last year, she became very noisy at night and was incontinent.
Murni, who shared a room with her, said she was affected by the noise and the smell, and became stressed as she was unable to sleep at night.
Ms Ngiam said that Murni had a very difficult job of having to care for an elderly patient with many problems, but it was no excuse for her to have reacted the way she did.
Murni accepted that her actions were "reprehensible".
District Judge Low Wee Ping said that what was most disconcerting in the case was the victim's advanced age.
He said that such elderly victims are unable to comprehend or articulate their distress when harm is inflicted on them by domestic workers.
He also agreed with the prosecution that a deterrent sentence was an important consideration in these cases.
For causing hurt, Murni could have been jailed for up to two years and fined up to $5,000 on each charge.