The brother of the 33-year-old woman convicted of beating her intellectually disabled housemate to death, has apologised to the public for his sister’s heinous behaviour and has called for people to respect the court’s sentence of the couple who showed “monstrous cruelty” in “torturing” their victim.
Housewife Tan Hui Zhen was sentenced to 16-and-a-half years’ jail, while her 38-year-old husband Pua Hak Chuan received a sentence of 14 years’ jail and 14 strokes of the cane yesterday after they were convicted of multiple charges of assaulting the young woman who had lived with them.
Their housemate, 26-year-old waitress Annie Ee Yu Lian, died after eight months of abuse and exploitation that occurred from Aug 2014 until her death on 13 Apr the next year.
While the couple initially claimed that Annie committed suicide, they later amended their story to say that Annie died due to a bad fall that she suffered to her disability.
Official reports showed, however, that Annie’s death was caused by multiple injuries. The autopsy found that she suffered from 12 fractured ribs, 7 fractured vertebrae, and a ruptured stomach. Her body was also crowded with blisters and bruises.
While the forensic pathologist report submitted by the prosecution revealed that each injury would “not be in the ordinary course of nature be expected to cause death,” it made clear that Annie died from acute fat embolism.
This rare embolism occurred due to repeated abuse by her tormentors who inflicted blunt force trauma on her buttocks, causing fatty tissue to enter Annie’s bloodstream This tissue travelled to Annie’s lungs, creating a blood vessel blockage and interfering with blood receiving oxygen in the lungs.
Annie died of progressive cardiac and respiratory failure as a result of this blockage.
Tan was initially charged with murder but her charges were reduced after a psychiatric report revealed that she was suffering from moderate to severe depression and borderline personality disorder at the time of the offences. Both husband and wife were convicted of reduced charges of causing grievous hurt with a weapon.
Tan’s mother also revealed to the court that her family has a history of domestic abuse and that her daughter has suffered three miscarriages and also has been known to have self-harmed: “It wasn’t a happy childhood… though it can’t justify what Tan had done.”
Tan’s brother who wished to only be known as Mr Tan publicly apologised to the late Annie’s family and called for outraged members of the public to respect the court’s sentence:
“It’s a fact that someone had done something wrong. Justice has been upheld too. As for whether the sentence is sufficient, it’s actually very subjective. We should respect the law and the court’s decision…
“My sister and my brother-in-law owe the deceased’s family an apology. But an apology is not enough even though it’s the least to be expected of us, so I’d like to apologise here publicly.”
Responding to widespread backlash against his sister, Mr Tan added that while the public is free to air their views, he hopes they will respect the law and instead “draw lessons from this and treat one another with respect and not just give way to (their) own anger and pressure.”
Pua’s mother expressed her “deepest apologies” as well and said, “My son has gotten what he deserved.”
Meanwhile, a petition calling for harsher sentences to be meted out to the husband and wife has been circulating online.
The petition which will be delivered to the Attorney General’s Chambers, the People’s Action Party, Minister for Law & Minister for Home Affairs K. Shanmugam, Deputy Senior State Counsel April Phang Suet Fern and State Counsel Claire Poh Hui Jing has already garnered over 21,000 signatures.
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