SINGAPORE - She had just started talking to a friend she met while walking to work on Thursday when she noticed an elderly woman holding a wooden pole heading towards them.
Madam T. Rajeswari, 65, didn't think much of it as the woman was a familiar face in the area. So she was unprepared for what happened next - the woman suddenly swung the pole and brought it down on her head.
Stunned, she tried to ward off the blows with her arms but her assailant continued hitting her on the head and neck. She stopped only after the force of the blows broke the pole in two and then walked away calmly.
Madam Rajeswari told The New Paper after the attack that she had just started talking to her friend, Ms Devi, 60, next to some benches near Block 629, Ang Mo Kio Avenue 4, at around 11.50am when the attack occurred.
The cleaner at the National Kidney Foundation Dialysis Centre in Ang Mo Kio estimated that she was hit 10 times. She walks to work daily from her family home in Block 152, Ang Mo Kio Avenue 5.
Her assailant, known as Madam Chang, is the second elderly woman known to attack other women in Ang Mo Kio .
Madam Rajeswari, who was in tears, said: "I was shocked when she started to hit me.
"I couldn't do anything. I don't even know why she started to hit me without warning. We never did anything wrong to her."
Ms Devi, a security officer, added: "We have no relations or grudge with her at all. She just came out of nowhere and started walloping my friend.
"I shouted for help and pleaded 'jangan pukul' (Malay for don't hit).
"Although there were so many people around, they just stood there like they were watching a movie. I had to call the police myself.
"It all happened too fast. She stopped only when the pole broke and part of it fell to the ground. She dropped the other half and walked away, muttering in Chinese."
She added that she did not try to restrain the assailant as she was recovering from a recent eye operation and "too scared to confront her".
The attack left Madam Rajeswari with swelling on the left of her head and both wrists. An ambulance arrived but she did not need treatment and later went home to rest.
Ms Devi said the alleged assailant was still in the neighbourhood when the police arrived. Her face and short hair were covered in white powder when the police took her away.
"We have seen her in the neighbourhood before, wearing dirty clothes. She was always picking up things. We thought she might be working for the town council," she added.
The victim's son, Mr Matthew Manimaran, 38, said the police had told him they would be taking Madam Chang for a medical check-up and were likely to refer her to the Institute of Mental Health (IMH) as she was incoherent when she was arrested.
Residents said they have often seen Madam Chang around the neighbourhood.
Ms Serene Tan, who owns a department store nearby, said: "I have seen her going around collecting things like leaves and stones along the corridors. Normally, she doesn't lose her temper unless provoked."
Although Madam Chang has been living with her husband in Block 647, Ang Mo Kio Avenue 6, for 29 years, residents have seen her sleeping at the various void decks.
An Ang Mo Kio Avenue 6 resident of 20 years, Madam Chua, said: "I have seen her taking off her top in the open at the void decks. She does her work quietly and never begs for money.
"When we offer her food or money, she always says no.
"Once it was raining heavily and she was still clearing cigarette butts along the pavement."
Another Ang Mo Kio Avenue 6 resident, Ms Cecilia Naidu, said: "She goes for food near the neighbourhood coffee shops. Usually she will set out her food on the floor and eat with her hands. She goes around collecting things in plastic bags and takes them to a nearby bin."
Madam Chang's husband, Mr Yong How Rom, 72, said she sometimes does not return home for days. He said his wife, who is in her 60s, had not returned home since last Sunday.
The cleaner said in Mandarin: "She has been a patient at IMH before. She has had this for most of her life and needs to take medicine to stay under control. Sometimes the police come to take her to see the doctor."
Madam Chang is notorious for her antics.
Ms Tan Sew Wah, an employee at a coffee shop in Block 632, Ang Mo Kio Avenue 4, recalled an occasion when she witnessed how angry Madam Chang could get.
She said: "It was late at night when she came to the coffee shop and tried to carry the beer bottle crates. My colleague asked her not to move them and she reacted strongly. She held up two empty bottles and threatened us loudly in Hokkien. We ignored her and just let her be."
A police spokesman said they received a call for assistance at 11.47am. When officers arrived, they found a woman in her 60s with injuries to her head. They also arrested a woman in relation to the case.
Investigations are ongoing.
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