The double murder at Bedok should serve as a wake-up call for those who employ domestic helpers in their homes.                                                         They have to ask a few pertinent questions before they embark on such   an endeavor.                                                                                                              1) Do they absolutely need such a service.                                                              2) How much do they know about the helper who is a total stranger in  the household, in terms of her character, psychic, her background. Does she carry a lot of baggage which is a time bomb waiting to explode. It may need a slightest   provocation to set off the explosive scenario and murder.                                        3) Very often they underestimate the physical strength of the “intruder” who can inflict a lot of damages. There was one case of a woman employer who was banged against a wall and died instantly.                                                                   4) Beside the employers, can the maid agencies play a roll in mitigating the danger of providing an almost  unknown person into a home.                                   5) What can the MOM do to regulate such an employment.                                    Robert


22 thoughts on “A POTENTIAL TIME BOMB

  1. The domestic helper (dh)suspected of murdering the elderly couple came from the maid agency belonging to the couple’s son. The son must have felt that that dh suitable to serve his family, including looking after his elderly, frail parents. But to me I feel there was too much work for one domestic helper.

    When a dh commits a crime, we must also look at how she had been treated by her employer and his family members. Ideally the family should treat their dh fairly , but sad to say, many treat their dh like slaves.

    Dh have rights and I hope maid agencies educate them on their rights and encourage them to seek help if they are abused. Empower them by telling them how and where they can seek help.

    Of course there are black-sheep dh and mentally unhealthy dh. Employers dissatisfied with their dh should quietly get the dh transferred without ‘threatening’ her. This is for their own safety.

    – a personal opinion

    • Hi Jasmine
      After reading your comments, I would like to rebut what you said.
      You said the dh came from the agency of the employer’s son and he felt she was suitable and she had too much work. Are you trying to shift the guilt. Probably out of expediency than otherwise that the dh was hired. The son also had little knowledge of this person out of many in the pool.
      When a dh committed a crime, there will be a police investigation and a court proceeding to determine the guilt without prejudice.
      The dh has many means to seek redress if she is unfairly treated.
      But she definitely cannot take the laws into her own hands. Two wrongs cannot make a right.

  2. I m surprised to read that Employer no longer can keep their domestic helper passport, since when ? R employer still responsible for d 5K bond when d maid disappear? I understand d rulings for hiring a domestic helper has changed a lot to benefit d domestic helpers but not for d Employer…. how did this happen? R we truly overwhelmed by foreign workers…..so much so we lost our voices ? Sad!

    • Hi Fredlim
      You have raised a few very important and relevant points which
      the regulatory authorities must be aware of. But the loopholes have not been plugged to address the issue.

      • Hi Robert – those who had many many years of domestic help will
        tell you unless u r filthy rich, one just hv to suck it up if you r played out by d agents n d maid! To many having domestic help is not a luxury unless u found one who reciprocate your kindness. One cannot be that lucky to hv a good helper through out the years. I no longer hv maid when my children graduate hence its unfair to challenge an opinion. But having said that I felt d terms to hire a maid are not fair to d employer…if time permits n if I can b of help i will support appeal to MOM. My email limfreda@gmail.com.

        • “One cannot be lucky to have a good helper through the years” – spot on, Freda! I’ve been having a helper for 30 years. Am very grateful for the very good ones – Bing (Filipino), Rita (Indonesian) and Marlar (Myanmarese), the last girl who just completed her contract last year. We are still in contact via Facebook. Others gave me a bad experience and one was with me for 10 years but was caught red-handed stealing my expensive things. Reported to the Police with the proof.

          I always remember what was said when you employ maids – it’s a gamble.

          Thank goodness I’ve gone through the era when good maids were really good, generally, and I count my blessings – I suppose we cannot expect this to be forever, and times have changed.

  3. Indeed. The Bedok case serves as a wake-up call for potential employers seeking domestic helpers. Besides asking the questions that Robert has asked, they should also ask themselves.

    1) Can I do what I expect the maid to do?
    2) How much do I know about my character, psychic, endurance and temperament? It is a time bomb waiting to explode if I do not know myself well. A slightest provocation from the maid can lead to a very ugly consequence.

    The new maid has to go through a medical examination to see that she is suitable for employment. By the same token, the potential employer should go through a medical examination to certify that he/she is fit to keep a female stranger in his/her house.

    Very often employers underestimate the physical and even sadistic strength of the “bully” in them, who can inflict a lot of harm, physically and mentally, to the helpless and inferior being standing before them.

    There were many cases of domestic helpers being bullied to death by employers. The maids did not die instantly. They died a painful torturous death. Jumping down from a high floor perhaps is less painful.

    Can the maid agencies guarantee the maid’s family members that their wife/daughter/sister/mother will return safely home in one piece after finishing her contract?

    EVERY human being has positive and negative attributes, whether he is the Head of State or a simple domestic worker.

    If money is the only concern, we can simply pass laws to constrain and restrain the poor to pacify the rich.

    If money is NOT the only concern, we ask a simple question, “Why a human being will do nasty things to another, when and if both are kind and nice to each other?”

    Kindness begets kindness – This applies to all, including the richest man in the country and the most insignificant chap struggling to make an honest living. LIVE and let live.


  4. In theory, nobody should take the law into his/her own hands. But what is law when one is depressed, dejected and desperate? What is law when it comes to a matter of life or death?

    Let’s leave the Bedok case to police investigations.

    Flipping back to read past cases, we see that most of the victims are the very old and very young. On one extreme, they are old folks who are sick in the body and/or mind, handicapped or bed-ridden. On the other, they are helpless babies and young toddlers who can hardly walk or talk.

    They are attacked because family members left them to the care of a stranger, untrained and ill-equipped for the sickening job. They are abused because family members expect the helper to do all the things that they do not want to do or do not know how to do. In short, they want the helper to be a superwoman and perform miracles while they are away. Out of sight out of mind …. until the police call.

    How do we avoid another such tragedy? The Ministry of Social and Family Development must live up to its name. Together with MOM, they ought to ensure employers do not engage domestic helpers for the sake of abandoning their care for their aged parents or young children. Ultimately, it is the responsibility of every adult to look after his/her parents and offspring.

    It is morally wrong to pay a meagre salary to a woman and transfer all the intrinsic family duties and responsibilities to her. What price family values? What price parents and children? Legally, make the employer liable if a case of abuse or death arises. The employer should be prosecuted in court and punished accordingly if he/she is found to be negligent in looking after the very old and very young in the family.


  5. I had my experience with dh. Not very good ones. Thank goodness I do not need one anymore. I needed them at that time. Yes Susan. Its a gamble. If you treat them well and they still bite your fingers, then its bad luck with dh – like my case. Like one who went on a diet to lose weight and she told my neighbours I starved her. I never lay hands on any of them because I do not have the right to do so, no matter how angry. My sister had two dh and they both worked for her for more than 14 years each – one still with her. She has always treated her dh very well like family. She is lucky they reciprocated her kindness.
    We must try to understand the dh. They come to a foreign land because of circumstances. They may miss their family, or sometimes employers make them work too hard – like some cases I heard about waking up at 4 or 5am to clean at least two or three cars, a three storey house with more than 10 people living there and doesn’t go to bed till after 11pm, sometimes with not enough to eat. Not easy. So they snap! Of course they cannot take the law into their own hands, but emotions or mental state of mind is difficult to control at times and get the better of them.

  6. The bottomline is be fair to the domestic helper. Giver her enough sleep and food. And do not expect dh to give 100per cent performance. Be happy with 70 per cent. More important is the dh does not steal.

  7. If there is temptation, i.e., leaving valuables, cash freely and unattended, is already sending a signal to these dh to steal for those not honest. Cant really blame them, the owner need to practise great precautions.

    I always remembered a statement quoted by the maid agency, that is
    “You are supposed to be ‘mum’ and not the other way. So long as employer do not short changed them, I don’t think it will be that good.

    Of cos, dh is definitely not our family members so we can’t expect her full loyalty, agreed 70% is already bonus.

    I always told my dh that I may not be the super good mum but definitely not the worst.. We will make a point to talk and listen to her during the pay check day so that we had a better understanding among us. So far, we counted our lucky star that she is still with us extending her service after 2yrs…

    Mum used to be very picky on her but since been bed-ridden 2.5yrs, she had mellowed so much that taking care of her is no longer a chore to dh now. She do take good care of my mum, that is the most important task on my list. Other housework, I am not particularly fussy over them, she can take more days to do them is also not an issue to us.

    Bottomline, owner killed dh or vice versa – I prayed that these will not happened to my family and me. There are too many factors which needs to be ironed out before they burst.. right?

    Regards… Dolly

  8. After reading the comments I have come to the conclusion there are two sides
    of the coin and it is difficult to arrive at a correct perspective.
    Nevertheless, the news about the crime have surfaced certain troubling revelations.
    The dh has escaped to Indonesia to a place 300 km away from Singapore. The police found in her possession various currency notes, jewelries belonged to the deceased. This validated that besides ill treatment which she claimed, she was driven to killing by her greed.
    During her escapade, she boasted about how she was able to elude the custom and immigration checkpoint and police. Her show of impunity was her
    undoing when she did not border to hide her identity when he was in internet cafes and hotels. She was conceited that she had out-smart the authorities.


  9. Yes…Robert. The culprit was caught by Indonesian police. But she will not be deported back to Singapore to stand trial. Not sure whether she will get a harsher punishment over there.

    While we agree that the maid in this particular case was evil to rob and kill, we should explore the contributory factors that have had made it possible for her to do what she had done. The law must come in to prevent, in addition to prosecute.

    As the title of your post suggests, it is the ”potential time bomb” that we are worried about. How to detect and defuse another “bomb” in time before “explosion”?

    Sentencing a few maids to death or prison each and every year does not solve the problem.

    We have seen video clips of the evil or silly things done by domestic helpers, or maids. Among others, there is a case of

    1. A maid shaking and slapping an old woman lying on the bed. The old woman raised her feeble hand telling the maid to stop but the beating continued.
    2. A maid hitting an old man sitting on a wheelchair hard on the head several times. The victim looked confused and covered his head with both hands.
    3. A maid digging the throat of a small boy apparently choking with food. The boy was later warded, with his digestive and respiratory systems severely injured.
    4. A maid putting a tiny baby into a tub of hot water. She seemed unaware even when the baby was crying loudly.

    All maids involved were arrested and charged in court. There were other cases where the “lucky” ones managed to flee for their life. People invariably pointed the finger at the “bad-hearted” maids and label them as criminals; while readily poured condolences and sympathy to the victims and their family members.

    In any criminal case, or even a minor traffic offence, there is this thing called contributory factor, on the part of all concerned. Why in a tragedy such as those mentioned above, only the maid was charged and convicted?

    What about the people who “aided and abetted” the crime? Family members who installed cameras in their houses to monitor their maids knew jolly well that a tragedy was likely to happen. Why did they allow it to happen? Where were they when it happened? Why did they leave the old, the sick and the vulnerable alone with a total stranger? Why were they allowed to test the limit of emotions and endurance of a simple woman by paying her a 500 to 800 monthly salary?

    Why is there no law to investigate family members and charge them, since they have contributed to the crime? If the employer transfers distressing family obligations and responsibilities to a domestic helper, there is a great likelihood that a tragedy will happen.

    Of course, some will say, “Nobody asks them to come here to work”. The retort is “Nobody asks anybody to employ a maid”. We know these are silly remarks. This is where the Ministry of Social and Family Development and the Ministry of Manpower come in. They are set up for a purpose, aren’t they?


  10. Todays paper said that Maid jailed eight months for stealing $25,000 worth of property from employer.

    It is a gamble to hire maid and we must continue to be constantly “alert” towards the maid who has service us for many years. I understand the rule now is Employer cannot withhold DH passport and Employer no longer can have join account with the DH. Because DH are eager to be employed they agree to your terms and the Agent happily close the deal. When there are major issue with the DH and because we did not follow any such rules neither MOM nor the Agent will help the Employer to resolve it fairly!

    Indeed it is a potential time bomb as many of us will need their services as we ages…….

  11. A gamble indeed. In human relationships, what is not a gamble?

    If a couple, after an enviable sweet romance and honeymoon and solemnly declare “I do” can end up in divorce or separation, how can we expect two strangers who only met a couple of times at the agent’s office to live happily ever after (in the same house)?

    If a disgruntled maid cannot get at the able-bodied employer who has bullied her, she will target the old, sick and very young in the house. As I have said, what is law when one is depressed, dejected and desperate?

    Having said all I have said in the last several posts, my objective is not to make some noise and forget the matter. We have to protect the vulnerable ones at home. We try to prevent another family tragedy from happening.

    I have written to the Straits Times, as only the government authorities can recommend laws to safeguard all concerned and save lives. I cannot attach the URL here. If you have the Straits Times, read the forum page (pg A27) titled, “Employers cannot push their burden of care onto maids”. We shall wait for MSF to respond.


  12. As an addendum to what I said in the post, it would not be complete if we do not suggest some ways to defuse the “bomb”.
    Can anyone make a suggestion to detect the “fuse” and timely defuse it?
    I do not speak tongue in cheek. I think there is a fairly simple but effective way to detect what the domestic helper is up to something as serious as committing
    a murder crime which is premeditated.

  13. Hi Robert – simple n safer than incur additional expenses is to get rid of DH when they hv a terrible attitude. Perhaps I go to d DH social media chat for more suggestions. I just read that another “voice” seeking paid home leave for DH. I see there is a imbalance here many are speaking up for DH why? Many Singaporean Employers are average income earners, MOM should addressed their complains. My 1 cent worth….

    • Hi Fredalim,
      You lamented that there is a imbalance here many are speaking up for DH why?
      I am more inclined to share your sentiments how the general public are swayed to perceive that the DHs are the underdogs and are the victims.
      But let us look at circumstances which led to the tragedy. Many-a-time the victims were the feeble, old or sick people and the young ones. So in a home where the strong members of the family are not there to give protection, then one can visualize the vulnerability of the weak ones, the dh no longer is the underdog but the top dog to wreak havoc. But very often when one dh suffered some ill treatments, the mass media would whip up a sensation thereby swaying the emotions of the public. One has to view at the issue objectively in the correct perspective for the good of the society. Almost invariably the murdered victims were the employers rather than the dh.

  14. Response to paid home leave for DH in today’s ST quote : when our forefathers came to singapore to work, they had few resources to even communicate with their families back home…… DH here are accorded many privileges….unquote

    We need more Employers to voice out in order that Rules can be set to protect the Employer!

    Sent from my iPhone

  15. Sharing issues on domestic helpers;

    With the overwhelming DH population here, I sure hope this does not happen here.


    A dispute between a maid and her employer ignited a riot at the high end complex in India.

    The madams in the luxury gated community went to yoga classes the maids soundlessly whisked away dirty dishes and soiled laundry before retreating.
    This kind of arrangement has persisted across India for decades, in apparent harmony.

    But early on Wednesday,
    on the outskirts of New Delhi, a dispute between a maid and her employer erupted into a full-blown riot, as hundreds of the maid’s neighbors, armed with rocks and iron rods, forced their way into the complex and stormed her employer’s apartment.

    Conflicts between domestic workers and employers are a regular feature but mass violence is almost unheard-of that is partly because in Indian cities, many maids live in their employers’ homes, giving them little opportunity to build networks and compare notes.

    “The Maids tried to show that they did not have rights. I feel that we do not have any human rights. We are the poor ones.”
    Ms. Sethi, 34, considers herself a benevolent boss.“We worship them, because they are such an important part of our lives,” she said of the maids. “We first feed them and then eat. I would give her tea before making her do her chores.” But she has, she said, lost her faith in that bond.

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