Woman rescues abused maid climbing down from 36th storey

SINGAPORE - After overcoming her initial fears from seeing someone on the ledge outside her 34th-storey kitchen, she reacted with sheer might.

It was 5.30am and the 63-year-old cleaner was the only one awake in her five-room HDB flat at Block 22, Teban Gardens when she saw a figure on the ledge.

Madam Seetoh thought a thief was trying to break into her home.

But when she heard a desperate plea for help, her reflexes kicked in: She reached out and yanked the maid to the safety of her kitchen.

She did so without any help and when the police arrived, the drama was over.

Thirty minutes later, Madam Seetoh calmly left for work, with her husband and children still asleep.

Madam Seetoh, who declined to give her full name, was doing her morning routine of collecting her laundry hanging on bamboo poles outside her kitchen when she noticed a pair of legs dangling from the 35th storey.

She told The New Paper in Mandarin yesterday: "I saw a pair of legs and I was terrified. I thought it was a thief and I wanted to close the windows."

When Madam Seetoh realised it was a woman, she panicked.

"I didn't know who she was and what she was attempting. I had cold feet and I didn't know how to react."

She did not know it then, but the Indonesian maid was trying to flee from her abusive employer on the 36th storey by climbing down from the kitchen balcony.

EMPLOYER JAILED

The incident occurred on Feb 5 last year. Yesterday, Madam Seetoh's act of courage and strength came to light when the maid's employer, housewife Tay Li Nah, 39, was jailed four weeks for hurting Ms Saedatun Fandilah, 26.

When Ms Saedatun started screaming "Help me, help me!" Madam Seetoh extended her hands, reaching out to grab the maid's arms before helping her onto the bamboo poles and into the kitchen.

Madam Seetoh said the maid hugged her tightly and started crying.

"I was too shocked to react so I just hugged her back."

It was only when the maid mumbled "I was beaten" repeatedly that Madam Seetoh realised the situation.

She consoled Ms Saedatun and called the authorities. Even then, the maid was persistent and wanted to leave.

"She tried persuading me to open the door and let her escape, but I told her that there was no point running as it would only prolong the abuse."

The police and an ambulance arrived later and left with the maid.

Madam Seetoh then left for work.

Does she see herself as a hero?

"If I didn't save her, who would? She would continue her climb (down) to find an escape route and most of the neighbours were not awake at that time.

"It was what anyone would have done. If she fell down and died, I would live my whole life in guilt."

PUNCHING BAG

A neighbour on the 36th floor, who declined to be identified, said Ms Saedatun was soft-spoken and rarely left her employer's home. He said he was aware of the abuse, but did not act on it.

A few days before the escape, he was on his way home when he bumped into the maid at the corridor.

"I went closer and noticed that both her eyes were bruised badly. It was as if someone used her as a punching bag.

"The next day, she was wearing sunglasses," he said.

He said of the abuse: "It was like a night market. There would be shouting, quarrelling and things being smashed. Sometimes I would shut the door, I could not bear to see what was happening."


This article was first published on August 27, 2014.
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