8.5 years' jail for second woman who abused low-IQ adult to near death

Amir Hussain
·Senior Reporter
·9 min read
Haslinda Ismail, 34, pleaded guilty last month to causing hurt with a deadly weapon, causing hurt with a heated substance, and causing grievous hurt with a deadly weapon. (PHOTO: Getty Images)
Haslinda Ismail, 34, pleaded guilty last month to causing hurt with a deadly weapon, causing hurt with a heated substance, and causing grievous hurt with a deadly weapon. (PHOTO: Getty Images)

SINGAPORE — A 34-year-old woman who, together with her family, brutally abused a low-IQ woman and enslaved her with a metal bicycle chain, sometimes tying it around her neck, was on Wednesday (3 February) jailed for eight-and-a-half years.

Haslinda Ismail had last month pleaded guilty to three charges: causing hurt with a deadly weapon, causing hurt with a heated substance, and causing grievous hurt with a deadly weapon.

Another 14 similar counts were considered in sentencing.

Deputy Public Prosecutors Ang Feng Qian, Li Yihong, Grace Chua and Ng Jun Cheong had sought nine-and-a-half years’ jail for the “appalling case of abuse, cruelty, and vileness”.

The assault on the 30-year-old victim had involved deadly weapons such as pliers to twist her toes, a hammer to knock out her teeth, a baseball bat to hit her head, and boiling water which was splashed over her.

When the victim was sent to hospital via ambulance in a near-death state on 16 January 2018, she required eight hours of resuscitation. The burn injuries on her body were so severe that she had to be transferred to the Singapore General Hospital’s Burns Centre the same day.

Among the injuries the victim suffered were multiple cuts over her head and face, damage to both corneas, a toe fracture, and a total of 10 missing teeth. She also had full-thickness burns to 5 per cent of her body and partial-thickness burns to 30 per cent of her body. She was also severely malnourished.

On Monday, Haslinda’s sister Hasniza Ismail, 40, was jailed for three years. She pleaded guilty to three charges: causing hurt with a deadly weapon, wrongful confinement, and perverting the course of justice.

Last month, two of their brothers were convicted of crimes relating to the case. Iskandar Ismail, 32, pleaded guilty to causing hurt and lying to the police. He was jailed for eight months. Iski Ismail, 30, pleaded guilty to perverting the course of justice and lying to the police. He was jailed for 2 months and four weeks.

The case involving the siblings’ mother, Hasmah Sulong, is pending before the High Court.

Victim ran away from home

The victim was a secondary school friend of the siblings’ youngest brother Isafi Ismail and got to know his family. In mid-2011, she ran away from home due to family problems and would periodically stay with the Ismail family.

Then in early-2016, the victim ran away from home and moved in with them. The arrangement was for the victim, who worked at McDonald’s, to pay Hasmah $150 a month for laundry. She would buy her own food and sleep on a mat in the living room.

Sometime between May and June 2016, Haslinda accused the victim of performing oral sex on her Egyptian husband, Hany Aboubakr Abdelkarim Abdelfattah. Haslinda slapped the victim’s face and instructed Hany to pointed his middle finger at the victim and slap her face twice. From then on, the Ismail family launched a campaign of torture on the victim.

“Although (the victim) visibly required medical treatment after these incidents of abuse, Hasniza applied Dettol, cream or powder on (the victim’s) burn injuries or other wounds, rather than bringing (the victim) to the doctor,” said the prosecutors.

“When (the victim’s) toe became infected after pliers were used to twist them, Hasniza and Haslinda also applied some medication on her toe and did not bring her to see the doctor,” they added.

Campaign of enslavement, torture

In June 2016, Haslinda confiscated the victim’s mobile phone on the pretext that she had outstanding laundry fees and the latter stopped working. Haslinda already had hold of the victim’s NRIC and passport. From then on, the victim was made to do housework for the Ismail family without pay. The abuse that the victim endured also intensified.

Haslinda alleged that the victim was stealing from her and Hasmah asked Hasniza to buy a metal chain with a plastic covering for securing bicycles to use on the victim at night, the court heard. Hasmah would allegedly tie the metal chain around the victim’s hands or legs and secure it with a padlock to a baby swing in the living room between 10pm and midnight.

“Hasmah wanted (the victim) chained up at night because she was concerned that (the victim) would run away or steal food from the kitchen. Hasmah would keep the key to the padlock and use it to unlock (the victim) in the morning between 8am and 10am,” said the prosecutors.

After she was released in the morning, the victim would be expected to sweep and mop the house before she was allowed to have her breakfast.

One day, the victim shifted the baby swing to use the toilet herself in the early hours of the morning. Iski saw this and told Hasmah about it. Later, the mother told Isafi to fix a metal plate with a hook to the wall outside Hasniza’s room so that they could secure the victim with the metal chain to the metal plate. Mother and daughter took turns to confine the victim. Sometimes, Hasmah would loop the metal chain around the victim’s neck. Meanwhile, Hasniza would chain the victim by her legs.

Around October or November 2017, the victim started suffering from urinary and faecal incontinence. In late December 2017, when her incontinence got worse, she was shifted to the toilet and chained there for most of the day. Hasmah tied the victim’s leg with a metal chain around the toilet bowl and secured it with a padlock. The victim, who was very weak by this point, ate off the bathroom floor and sat in her own faeces and urine, the court heard.

Violent abuse on Hari Raya Haji

On the afternoon of 31 August 2017, the eve of Hari Raya Haji, Haslinda brought the victim to her new flat – which she had earlier moved into – to help her with the family’s Hari Raya Haji preparations.

She did not allow the victim to use the toilet or sleep that night, and instead made her stand in the kitchen until sometime around 11am the next morning. At about 11am on 1 September, the victim was unable to control her bladder and urinated on the kitchen floor.

Haslinda hit the victim’s body with a broomstick so forcefully that it broke into two, then used a hanger to hit her arms. The perpetrator also used cable ties to restrain the victim’s hands and legs and demanded that she continue standing in the kitchen in her soiled trousers.

The victim remained tied up and standing in the kitchen when other family members arrived at the flat for the Hari Raya celebrations. Hasmah brought two packets of hor fun for the victim, but Haslinda threw one packet away and urinated into the other before demanding that the victim eat from the soiled packet. Famished, the victim complied.

Haslinda released the victim from her cable ties only after the rest of the family left the flat later that day. Hany witnessed the abuse but did nothing. Haslinda also instigated Hany to slap the victim’s face twice.

Haslinda also tortured the victim in June that year during the fasting period before Hari Raya Puasa. Hasmah told Haslinda that the victim was dirty and messy and asked her to knock out the victim’s teeth with a hammer, the court heard. Haslinda then took a hammer with a steel head and told the victim to sit on the toilet seat and open her mouth.

The prosecutors said, “Haslinda then forcefully hit the victim’s two upper front teeth with the hammer twice. As a result of Haslinda’s forceful hits to the victim’s teeth, the entire of her front left upper tooth became dislodged and fell out immediately. The victim’s front right upper tooth became chipped as a result. The ordeal was extremely painful for the victim but she did not scream or cry for help as she knew it would be futile.” Later, more of the victim’s remaining front upper tooth chipped off while she was eating.

On one occasion, Haslinda splashed hot water from a kettle on the victim, scalding her stomach, thigh and groin. The other Ismail family members found out about the incident when they saw the victim’s trousers sticking to her burn wounds. Still the torture continued.

Sometime between September and October 2017, Haslinda also used a plier to twist the victim’s second left toe while Hasmah used another plier to twist the victim’s right toes. The toe Haslinda twisted was fractured.

Sometime between October and November 2017, Haslinda punched the victim in the stomach twice and made her pull her ears and do squats, simply because she was in a bad mood. She then slapped the victim, pushed her to the floor, and kicked her waist and back. Her sister Hasniza then used a baseball bat with a metal top to hit the victim on her back and her right arm.

On the morning of 16 January 2018, the victim’s condition was so dire that Hasniza called for an ambulance and the victim was rushed to Khoo Teck Puat Hospital “in a near-death state”, said the prosecutors.

Lied to police

Hasniza then told family members to lie to the police that the victim had shown up at their home about two weeks ago with her injuries. She called Iski to tell him to lie to the police, and the latter in turn called Iskandar to tell him to do so too.

During police interviews later, the duo told the lie to investigators, as did Haslinda.

Iski came clean on 22 January 2018 and Iskandar, who had also slapped and punched the victim in 2017, recanted his statement two days later.

On 27 January 2018, Hasniza also came clean and admitted to lying to the police in her earlier statements. By this point, Hasniza knew that Hasmah and Haslinda had been arrested by the police.

A psychologist later found that “the victim’s limited coping skills in dealing with her fears and helplessness, her poor expressive ability, and her lowered cognitive functioning made it difficult for her to protect herself or to seek help, trapping her in a cycle of abuse”.

Haslinda will begin her sentence on 1 March.

For each of her charges of causing hurt with a deadly weapon or heated substance, she could have been jailed for up to seven years and also fined. Male offenders below 50 are liable for caning.

The penalty for causing grievous hurt with a deadly weapon is up to 15 years’ jail along with caning, or life imprisonment and a fine.

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