Singapore – The life of a woman who sought refuge with a family turned into a nightmare when they started to abuse and treat her like a slave.
On Thursday (Jan 7), four members of the family — two sisters and two brothers — pleaded guilty to various crimes, including assaulting the 30-year-old woman and lying to the police, according to channelnewsasia.com.
It all began in early 2016 when the woman got to know the family through one of the siblings who attended the same school. The woman, who had run away from home, agreed to pay 69-year-old Hasmah Sulong, the family’s matriarch, S$150 for laundry and a mat to sleep on in the living room.
The two sisters — Hasniza Ismail, 39, and her sister Haslinda Ismail, 34, — began the abuse after the former noted that the woman was intellectually slow and suffered from mental problems. The sisters discussed treating the woman as their “baby” or slave.
Hasniza would punish the victim by slapping her whenever she did something “wrong”, such as refusing to obey orders, lying or being unhygienic.
Haslinda and the rest of the family began abusing the victim after she accused the woman of performing fellatio on her husband, 33-year-old Egyptian Hany Aboubakr Abdelkarim Abdelfattah, between May and June 2016.
Haslinda’s abuse included pouring hot water on the victim’s stomach, thighs and groin. She also threatened her with more burning liquid if the woman did not stop groaning in pain.
According to the report, the victim’s father had pleaded with her to return home after visiting her workplace at a fast food outlet. The woman agreed to do so secretly as she was afraid the family would not permit her to leave.
Her attempt to leave the family failed as Haslinda appeared at her workplace and demanded outstanding laundry fees and wanted tp know why she was leaving. Haslinda then took the victim’s phone and told her to return to their flat.
The victim was then not allowed to return to her workplace and forced to perform household chores with no pay. The court heard that she was also chained at night, which limited her chances of fleeing.
The family threatened the victim that they would accuse her of theft if she tried to escape.
During this time, Haslinda’s assaults on the victim intensified. She knocked out two of the victim’s upper front teeth with a hammer and poured hot water on the lower part of her body. With her mother as an accomplice, they used pliers to twist the victim’s left and right toe.
Hasmah asked Hasniza to purchase a metal chain on allegations made by Haslindah that the woman was stealing from her.
The victim was first chained on the hands or her legs to a baby swing in the living room. She was only released in the mornings. However, after hearing her shift the swing at night to use the toilet, they upgraded to chains hooked to a metal plate installed on the wall. They also occasionally added a chain on her neck.
By October or November 2017, the woman suffered from urinary and faecal incontinence. She was then chained to the toilet bowl most of the day.
Hasniza threw away the metal chain and the family removed the metal plate before the police could investigate the matter, reported channelnewsasia.com.
The abuse continued until mid-January 2018 until the victim was too weak to stand or eat. She was also secreting a dark liquid from her mouth and nose. Despite the family’s attempts to wash the victim’s body with 15 bottles of Dettol or alcohol, she emanated a foul smell. Her wounds were swollen and oozing pus.
At this time, Hasniza called for an ambulance, and the victim was taken to hospital in critical condition. Medical staff feared she would not make it. She suffered from multiple injuries, including deformities in both ears, scalp lacerations, and burns on 30 per cent of her body.
The woman was also examined at the Institute of Mental Health and diagnosed with mild intellectual disability since childhood which could have restricted her ability to seek help.
Family initially lies to the police
During police investigations, the family members initially denied the abuse based on Hasniza’s instructions. It was one of the brothers, Muhammad Iski Ismail, 30, who first told the truth.
Deputy Public Prosecutor Ang Feng Qian sought nine-and-a-half years in jail for Haslinda, calling the incident “an appalling case of abuse, cruelty and vileness”. DPP Ang highlighted that the family had essentially treated the woman as their slave.
Haslinda’s lawyer, Ms Audrey Koo, said her client “did not have an easy life” and had a “tumultuous relationship with her family”. Haslinda’s background included abuse by her family, a miscarriage, her husband’s imprisonment in Malaysia and molestation by her father.
Ms Koo added that her client suffered from depression due to pressure from the family and her child suffering from global development disorder.
Haslinda, who moved out of the household in October or November 2017, was also “completely unaware of the state of the victim” and was “shocked and horrified by the extent of the abuse”, said her lawyer.
One of the brothers, Muhammad Iskandar Ismail, 32, was sentenced to two months and four weeks in jail for voluntarily causing hurt and lying to the police. The other, Muhammad Iski Ismail, 30, was sentenced to eight months in jail for lying to the police and asking his brother to lie.
Haslinda’s husband was sentenced to three weeks in jail in November 2020 for his role in the case, while Hasmah’s case is pending in the High Court.
Hasniza and Haslinda will be sentenced at a later date. /TISG
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