Indonesian maid jailed 10 months for hitting bedridden 96-year-old

05 September 2016
A woman in handcuffs. A woman in handcuffs.

SINGAPORE — For almost 17 months, Murni Panengsih had punched, slapped, and pulled the hair of a 96-year-old woman under her care, at times even pushing her head into the pillow.

The victim’s initial complaints that “somebody was trying to kill her” was dismissed by her daughter, Murni’s employer, who thought that the older woman may have been “imagining things” since she was showing signs of dementia. It was only in mid-September last year that a police report was lodged against the Indonesian domestic helper for hitting and pulling the old woman’s head “in a rough manner”.

On Monday (Sept 5), Murni, 26, was sentenced to 10 months’ jail for five counts of voluntarily causing hurt to her victim, who was bedridden and suffered from diabetes, among other illnesses. Ten other charges were taken into consideration during sentencing.

The court heard that while feeding the victim on August 15 last year, Murni used a water bottle to hit the old woman’s lips, slapped her face, and pressed her head hard into the pillow.

Two days later in the early morning, Murni suddenly knelt next to the victim’s bed, grabbed her ears, and threw her head on the pillow several times. On Sept 17, she shook and pulled the victim’s head, and again threw it at the pillow.

A medical examination found that the old woman suffered bruises over her right eye and cheeks, and had abrasions at her right ear, among other injuries. She died in December last year due to complications from a urinary tract infection.

The court heard that Murni, who started working for this household in October 2013, was never ill-treated or threatened by the victim or her employers during her employment.

Murni’s employer told the court that she was “doing a good job of looking after (her mother)” and was under the impression that her mother liked Murni.

A psychiatric report by Dr John Bosco Lee from Adelphi Psych Medicine Clinic found Murni to be suffering from an adjustment disorder between June and September last year, after the victim returned home from a week in hospital due to diabetes.

Murni said that she was “badly affected” because the victim lost control of her bladder and bowel movements, and started making noise at night, the report stated. She was “greatly stressed”, unable to sleep, and asked to return to Indonesia — a request her employers turned down.

Murni told the doctor that she “could not control (her) emotions” and had “a lot of things on (her) mind”. She often had bad dreams and woke up in the middle of the night in the weeks after the victim was discharged, the report said.

In court on Monday, Murni presented an apology letter written in Bahasa Indonesia, where she apologised for the hurt she had caused to the victim, and sought her family’s forgiveness. She could have been jailed up to two years and/or fined up to S$5,000 for each charge of voluntarily causing hurt.