Maid who killed teen escapes gallows, father thankful for her second chance

Maid who killed teen escapes gallows, father thankful for her second chance
SENTENCED: Tuti Aeliyah (left) was jailed 12 years for killing Shameera Basha.

They were a close-knit family, all 11 of them.

So it came as a shock for Mr Rodi when his daughter Tuti Aeliyah, the fifth of nine children, suddenly told him she was about to fly to Singapore to work.

Pressured by her husband and her in-laws for money, Tuti arrived here from Indonesia in 2012 to work as a maid.

At first, she would regularly phone home and update her family on her life here, but the calls gradually became less frequent.

By November 2013, the calls had ceased completely, and this left her family worried sick.

That is, until later that month, when Mr Rodi received a devastating phone call from the Indonesian embassy in Singapore, informing him that his daughter had been arrested for killing a teenager.

"My wife fainted when she heard the news. It was a disaster for us all. We couldn't accept that our daughter had done such a thing," he said.

On Monday, Tuti, 30, was sentenced to 12 years' jail for culpable homicide not amounting to murder for stabbing and strangling Secondary 4 student Shameera Basha, 16, to death on Nov 14, 2013.

Tuti was found to have been severely depressed with psychotic symptoms.

Even though she was not of unsound mind at the time of the incident, her judgment was significantly impaired due to her mental illness.

Yesterday, her father, Mr Rodi, 70, who flew here from Java, Indonesia, on Sunday night to attend her court hearing and sentencing, told The New Paper in an exclusive interview that Tuti was in good health before she left Java.

He described his daughter, who grew up in a village in Central Java, as a kind, happy-go-lucky girl who never hesitated to help out with the household chores.

"She loved talking to people, staying at home and spending time with family. She was a good and humble daughter," said Mr Rodi in a mix of Bahasa Indonesia and Javanese, through a translator.

Tuti dropped out of school with an academic qualification equivalent to Secondary Three here some time around 2001 to work and support her poor family, said her lawyer Nasser Ismail in her mitigation plea.

Mr Rodi said his daughter moved to Madiun in East Java after she was married. That was when her jobless husband and in-laws began pressuring her for money, he said.

Tuti worked as a babysitter for 10 years in Jakarta and as a restaurant waitress for six months in Bogor, West Java. But her hard-earned income was squandered by her husband and in-laws, Mr Nasser claimed.

He said that it was her husband who instructed her to work as a maid in Singapore to earn more money.

But Mr Rodi said Tuti did not seek permission from him to do so. Instead, she only informed him and the family just before she flew off.

While he was shocked, he reluctantly gave his blessings and prayed that she would be safe.

Tuti began working here for Shameera's family in April 2012.

Initially, she would phone home whenever she could. She shared she was feeling stressed that her husband would constantly call and bug her for more money, Mr Rodi said.

Tuti then stopped communicating with her family a few months before the November 2013 incident.

SNIPPETS

It was only through her maid agency in Indonesia, which relayed information via another maid close to Tuti, that Mr Rodi got to hear snippets of how his daughter was doing.

He learnt that she was depressed, had stopped eating and was stressed out.

"Tuti is someone who tries her best to help others. If her husband asked her for more money, she would find a way. We were worried about her state then. But what could we do? It was difficult to go over and find her. We just kept praying and waiting.

"Then came the news," he said.

In November 2013, Tuti was charged with murdering Shameera and faced the death penalty.

The charge was eventually amended to one of culpable homicide not amounting to murder, in which she could have been jailed for life or for up to 20 years with a fine.

On Monday, Tuti was sentenced to 12 years' jail.

While Mr Rodi was relieved his daughter escaped the gallows and life imprisonment, he said he is not justifying his daughter's act of killing an innocent teen.

He added that his 55-year-old wife still cannot come to terms with Tuti's crime.

"She's still shocked. We are all broken-hearted and cannot accept it," he said.

As for his daughter's mental illness, he admitted he did not know about her condition prior to the incident.

He said she did not tell anyone that she could see "ghosts" since she was 10, and as a result, did not seek any treatment.

She was also examined by an Indonesian maid agency and found to be in good mental condition before she flew here to work, he said.

"During her time in prison, I believe the authorities will provide her medication and rehabilitation. We will also find medicine and a doctor to cure her condition," he said.

Mr Rodi, who will return to Indonesia on Friday, runs a bicycle repair station back home while his wife works at a food stall. Their eight other children - five daughters and three sons, aged between 22 and 40 - work as farmers.

Tuti's husband deserted her after she was arrested in November 2013 and has not been heard from since, Mr Rodi said.

"We are now just waiting for her to come home. We thank the court, her lawyer, the Indonesian embassy and everyone involved for giving her a second chance to live," he added.

ABOUT THE CASE

On Monday, Indonesian maid Tuti Aeliyah, 30, was sentenced to 12 years in jail for culpable homicide not amounting to murder for killing Secondary 4 student Shameera Basha at her Tampines flat on Nov 14, 2013.

Three nights before the incident, Tuti tried to kill herself, but did not succeed.

The night before the offence, she dreamt of her dead grandmother asking her to "join her in heaven". Again, Tuti tried to kill herself, but failed.

The next day, at about 7.30am, Tuti was in the toilet and claimed she saw "Satan" in the toilet mirror.

She went into the bedroom where Shameera was asleep. It was then that "Satan" told her to kill the Tanjong Katong Girls' School student so that Tuti would have company in heaven.

Tuti first tried smothering the girl with a pillow before stabbing her more than four times with a kitchen knife. Finally, she used Shameera's school pinafore to strangle the girl to death.

Tuti then tried to commit suicide by drinking fabric softener and cutting her wrist. She also tried hanging herself in the kitchen toilet, but backed out as it was too painful.

An Institute of Mental Health psychologist found that Tuti was suffering from severe depression with psychotic symptoms.

Even though she was not of unsound mind at the time of the incident, her judgment was significantly impaired due to her mental illness.

In sentencing, Justice Woo Bih Li noted Tuti's mental illness, but said that there was no running away from the fact that she had killed an innocent girl who had done her no wrong.

After the sentencing, Tuti told the court she was sorry for what she had done and wanted to apologise to Shameera's family.

WHERE TO GET HELP

Samaritans of Singapore (SOS) (24 hours): 1800-221-4444

Singapore Association for Mental Health (Monday to Friday: noon to 6pm): 1800-283-7019

Touch Counselling & Social Support (Monday to Friday: 9am-6pm): 6709-8400

Care Corner Counselling Centre (every day except for public holidays: 10am to 10pm) (only in Mandarin): 1800-3535-800

Mental Health Helpline (24 hours): 6389-2222


This article was first published on May 27, 2015.
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