1-Year-Old Singapore baby died after getting punched by maid
"The attack was vicious, sustained and wholly unprovoked. All she did, was to do what babies normally do, which is to cry..."
It was a news that shocked us all on the morning of Mother's Day. A 1-year-old Singapore baby abused by maid had died.
The maid had punched the baby and gripped her neck hard to stop her from crying.
Baby abused by maid died
The shocking incident happened on 8 May 2016 at a flat in Block 225, Simei Street 4.
According to Channel NewsAsia, the maid, Maryani Usman Utar, was about to fall asleep at past midnight on 8 May, when she heard a loud thud. Baby Richelle Teo Yan Jia, who slept with her on the bed, had fallen off with her face down.
She picked the crying baby up and patted her back to sleep.
The baby woke up again and started crying at around 2 am. Maryani fed her milk, but the child vomited and stained both their clothes.
The maid tried putting the baby back to sleep again, but she wouldn't sleep. Her cries kept getting louder.
Frustrated, angry and very sleepy, Maryani punched the child on the left side of her neck with all her strength to stop her from crying. But baby Richelle cried even louder...
The maid then totally lost control of her emotions. She gripped the back of the baby's neck with all her strength for approximately half an hour. She also pressed her right fist against the side of her neck. And she did this until the baby closed her eyes and stopped crying.
After that, she put the baby on the bed, and washed her soiled clothes. She then changed and went back to sleep without checking on the child's condition.
Tragedy as baby never woke up
The next morning, Maryani left the house at 7:50 am to meet her family who was visiting her from Indonesia.
At about 9 am, Richelle's father, Mr Teo Kok Eng, checked on her as it was time to feed her. To his shock, he found that the left side of his daughter's face was darkened, and that her left arm and leg were darker than her right limbs.
Her left arm and leg felt cold. Mr.Teo's worst fears were confirmed when he placed his finger below her nostrils. The baby was not breathing.
She was rushed to hospital, but sadly, pronounced dead at 10 am.
Maryani was arrested at around 1 pm near Merlion Park.
Maid jailed for 7 years
On Thursday, 22 November 2018, Maryani was sentenced to jail for seven years.
In her defence, her lawyer had quoted a report from the Institute of Mental Health that stated that she was suffering from depression.
Apparently, she had twice asked her maid agency for a transfer as she was stressed and unhappy with the excessive workload. However, she admitted that she was never ill-treated, and was always given enough food.
She claimed to be afraid of Mrs Teo, who was always checking on her and scrutinising her mistakes. A month before the incident, it seems, Mrs. Teo had scolded and humiliated her at a shopping mall.
However, Deputy public prosecutor Kelly Ho stressed that, "Depression, even if severe, cannot be a licence to kill others".
She also called the attack, "Vicious, sustained and wholly unprovoked. All Richelle did, was to do what babies normally do, which is to cry..."
This little defenceless baby certainly did not deserve to die a painful death...
How to make sure your baby is safe with your maid
How do we know for sure if our baby is well taken care of by the maid? Especially if the baby is too young to talk or communicate? Here are some pointers:
• CCTV Cameras
These days we have the luxury of knowing what's happening in our homes, even when we are on the go. It is however important to let the maid know of the existence of the CCTV camera, lest she complains of breach of privacy.
Don't stick to fixed timings. Come home early once in while to see what's really happening. One of my friends came home earlier than expected one day, only to realise that the maid had taken her baby out, to meet her boyfriend!
• Observe your baby for warning signs
- Watch out for changes in your child's behaviour when your maid is around.
Does your little one appear fearful, anxious, or refuse to stay with her, even after your maid has been with you for some time? If yes, then the situation warrants more investigation.
- Look for obvious signs of physical abuse such as bruises, cuts and scratches.
While it's true that active babies do hurt themselves quite often, if these injuries happen too often, then it might be an indication that all is not right.
- Your child looks dirty and unkept most of the time.
Again, it's normal for little kids to get quite messy. But if you notice constant dirty, heavy nappies that are not changed, grimy fingers or dirty clothes, it could be a sign that your maid is neglecting the needs of your little one.
• Lay out the rules
Be strict about house rules, such as not entertaining friends at your house when alone with baby, or taking the baby outside without your approval. You might also want to specify the rules for using her handphone.
• Don't overload your maid
Many a time, the maid vents her frustrations on the baby because she's too stressed or tied up with her work. Sit with your maid, and make sure she's comfortable with the tasks at hand. Discuss on a timetable that you can follow daily. Make sure that she is healthy, and has enough sleep and energy for all her tasks.
• Communication and training
Wherever possible, write down specific instructions to be followed, and put it up on the wall, or on the fridge. You might even want to take some time off work to train your maid in the initial days, until she gets used to your home environment.
• Encourage honesty
Always encourage your maid to be honest with you. So if your baby falls down or hits himself somewhere, ask your maid for specific details and encourage her to be honest about it.
• Experience matters
When on the lookout for someone to take care of your little one, always check if she has prior experience in doing so. Inexperienced hands may lack the maturity and patience to deal with your baby. Talk to referees and previous employers, before you take the big step.
• Give constructive feedback
If you are not happy with what's happening, instruct her without scolding. Praise her for every good work done. It will spur her to do better.
• Never abuse your maid
Do not abuse your maid, be it physically or verbally. It is inhuman and totally against the law. Plus they might get vengeful, and take it out on your children.