Sentosa Cove resident provided her ex-maids to prove she's not abusive, but they confirmed she is

Tan Lee Hoon was convicted on seven assault charges involving her domestic helpers in December 2022.
PHOTO: The Straits Times

SINGAPORE — A woman who abused two domestic helpers in her Paradise Island home in Sentosa Cove was on Friday (Jan 27) sentenced to 10 months' jail.

Tan Lee Hoon, 58, kicked one of the helpers who was putting on socks for her. The victim said she was kicked because the offender was angry at her for putting on the socks wrongly. Tan also pinched the other maid.

The accused, who used to be a director and secretary at Novena Medical Centre, had claimed trial to eight assault charges involving Joan Lozares Lizardo and Jenefer Vegafria Arangote, both Filipinas.

District Judge Salina Ishak on Friday also ordered Tan to give $2,500 to Lizardo and $5,100 to Arangote as compensation.

Before sentencing her, the judge, who convicted Tan on seven assault charges in December 2022, said: "All maids should be treated with dignity and respect... The victims ought to be compensated for their pain and suffering."

The judge gave a discharge amounting to an acquittal on one of Tan's charges involving Lizardo. This means Tan cannot be charged again with the same offence.

The prosecution will be appealing against this discharge.

Deputy Public Prosecutors Kumaresan Gohulabalan and Ng Jun Chong stated in their submissions that Tan's husband, Sim Guan Huat, had employed both domestic helpers.

Tan assaulted Arangote on five occasions in September 2018 by pinching the woman's abdomen, chest and limbs.

During the trial, Lizardo testified that Tan had hit her many times between October 2015 and October 2018. Lizardo was unable to recall the details of most of these incidents.

However, she remembered that in October 2018, Tan was wearing a ring on her finger when she hit the maid hard on the head.

Lizardo's accounts of abuse were corroborated by two other maids — Gaborne Clayrimae Balasa and Zin Mar Phyo — who had also worked for Tan.

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The DPPs told Judge Salina: "She felt pain when the accused hit her. She was almost bending down to put on the accused's socks when the accused hit her head. She explained that the accused was very angry and had been screaming for her socks."

On another occasion, Lizardo testified that she was on the front porch of the Paradise Island house on Oct 12, 2018, when Tan kicked her chest because the maid was putting on the offender's socks wrongly.

The prosecutors said: "The kick was painful and she could still feel the pain after five days."

Arangote corroborated Lizardo's account.

A doctor who examined Lizardo five days later found that the maid had tenderness over her sternum, consistent with injury inflicted by a kick to the chest.

According to the doctor, Lizardo said that her employer had kicked her.

Court documents did not state who alerted the police, but officers later came to Tan's home and statements were taken.

The prosecution said that Arangote and Lizardo were credible and candid witnesses whose evidence should be given full weight.

The DPPs added: "We highlight that neither Jenefer nor Joan actually reported the abuse to the police, that Joan informed [a policewoman] that she did not know why the police officers were at the house, and that Jenefer had no idea the police were coming."

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Tan denied all the charges, claiming to be shocked when she was prosecuted for the offences.

She also claimed that she had never caused any hurt to any of her maids and did not abuse any of them.

According to court documents, she even provided officers at Clementi Police Division with the contact details of some of her other maids in a bid to prove her innocence.

The DPPs said: "However, it is jarring that the clear and consistent evidence from her previous domestic helpers (Balasa and Zin Mar Phyo) was that she had been abusive towards Joan on many occasions."

On Friday, defence lawyer Derek Kang told the court that Tan intends to appeal against her conviction and sentence.

Her bail has been set at $15,000.

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This article was first published in The Straits Times. Permission required for reproduction.