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10 years’ jail for maid who smothered boss’ mother-in-law

SINGAPORE — Believing that her employer harboured disdain for her mother-in-law, an Indonesian maid decided to win her boss’ favour by smothering the older woman to death.

Reuters file photo

Reuters file photo

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SINGAPORE — Believing that her employer harboured disdain for her mother-in-law, an Indonesian maid decided to win her favour by smothering the older woman to death.

Around midnight on Jan 14 last year, 24-year-old Yati — who goes by one name — woke up in the bedroom she shared with 76-year-old Aandi Abdul Rahman Rasheeda Begam. The elderly woman was asleep and Yati walked over to the queen-sized bed from her mattress, picked up a pillow and placed it over her victim’s head.

Aandi tried to break free and called Yati’s name at least twice, but the maid ignored her and continued smothering her for another hour, long after she had stopped moving.

Yati admitted to culpable homicide not amounting to murder today (Dec 10) and was sentenced to 10 years’ imprisonment.

The court heard that after killing Aandi, Yati had slept fitfully and rose at 5am to start her chores.

Sometime after 11am, Mdm Mohietheen Fathima Kuny Maidin, 40, tried to wake her mother-in-law up and found her unresponsive and cold to the touch. Mdm Fathima informed her husband and the paramedics were called.

The old woman was pronounced dead at the scene, with no visible injuries or signs of smothering found. She was buried at the Choa Chu Kang Muslim Cemetery that same day.

After repeated questioning by Mdm Fathima, Yati confessed to the killing two days later. Another two days later, the body was exhumed for an autopsy.

Forensic pathologist Marian Wang, however, found the body to be severely decomposed and was unable to determine the cause of death.

Psychiatric reports revealed that Yati had been suffering from major depressive disorder with mood-congruent psychotic features around the time of the offence. It was extremely likely that she was already mentally unwell before arriving in Singapore on Apr 13, 2013, said Institute of Mental Health psychiatrist Stephen Phang.

She had “heard” an unknown female voice on the night of the offence to kill “ibu” (Aandi). Yati was also under the delusion that Mdm Fathima disliked her mother-in-law, as she often gave the old woman leftovers and had instructed Yati to prioritise caring for her three children over Aandi.

Yati told Dr Phang she had decided to kill Aandi to “win mam’s (Mdm Fathima’s) heart”.

The psychiatrist concluded that Yati was a danger to others and suggested she undergo at least two years of robust psychiatric treatment.

Pushing for a sentence of 10 to 12 years’ jail, Deputy Public Prosecutor (DPP) Chee Min Ping said premeditation was an aggravating factor in this case. Yati had been employed to do the chores and care for the wheelchair-bound victim, and her actions had betrayed the trust and reliance of the family, said DPP Chee.

Defence lawyer Mohamed Muzammil Mohamed argued that Yati had been suffering in the household. She was “constantly humiliated” by Mdm Fathima, who had accused her of stealing. “What was most obnoxious and repugnant about Mdm Fathima, was to call her ‘babi hutan’ or ‘wild pig’ and even ‘a prostitute’,” said Mr Muzammil. Her employer denied the allegations.

Senior Judge Kan Ting Chiu said the case was sad. “We have a situation where the accused by deliberate action and intention and sustained effort... took the life of an aged and helpless victim.”

Yati had been suffering from “significant mental impairment” and her “senseless act” had irreparably damaged both her and her victim’s families, he said.

Smiling after learning of her sentence, Yati told her lawyer she was happy she could be reunited with her family in a few years.

Her father and husband flew over from Indonesia and Mr Kardiyadi, 43, told his daughter to accept her fate and stay strong.

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