Domestic helper Kartika Puspitasari tells court of horrific abuse over two years

Guilty verdict against employers vindicates woman accused of lying as she told court how she was starved, tied up and beaten over two years

PUBLISHED : Thursday, 19 September, 2013, 12:00am
UPDATED : Thursday, 19 September, 2013, 4:35am

Almost a year after escaping from the flat where she suffered horrifying abuse, Kartika Puspitasari says: "I am still afraid of them."

She is referring to her former employers, Tai Chi-wai, and his wife, Catherine Au Yuk-shan, whom she faced in court last month in their first encounter since she fled their Tai Po home in October last year.

Reliving her ordeal in evidence against Tai and Au - jailed yesterday for three years and three months and 5-1/2 years, respectively - Kartika told her story calmly but firmly, even as a defence lawyer accused her of lying.

"They're all true," she said of her allegations of beatings, non-payment of wages, starvation and being tied up.

When she had finished, she said outside court: "I still feel unwell and I just want to go home."

It was Kartika's response to the latest in a series of misfortunes to befall the 30-year-old helper and mother of a four-year-old daughter who spent seven years as a maid in Singapore before coming to Hong Kong.

First came a divorce from her husband, who died not long after.

Then, soon after she arrived in Hong Kong, she was told that her mother, who helped take care of her then two-year-old daughter, had been diagnosed with cancer.

She came to the city in July 2010, hoping for a new start, and for the first three months, life with Tai, Au and their children in Tai Po was quite normal.

But she told the court that her bosses' attitudes changed after they moved to another Tai Po flat in Serenity Garden.

She said Au often beat her on the head with a hanger and a shoe, and that the couple also used a bicycle chain to whip her.

On one occasion, Au cut off all Kartika's hair. When it began to grow back, Au told her to cut it again. She refused, and Au slashed her hands and stomach with a paper cutter. Au also banged her head on a tap so hard that it left a scar on her nose.

Kartika also claimed the couple tied her up when they were away and every night before they slept. For two years, she slept in either the kitchen or toilet. She had so little to eat that she scavenged scraps from the rubbish.

On the morning of October 9 last year, Tai punched Kartika in the mouth to punish her for eating without his permission and threatened to smash all her teeth. She resolved to run away.

When she escaped that day after being tied up and shut in the bathroom, she asked Indonesians in the street for help.

One fellow maid she met was a friend of Mia Sumiati, chairwoman of Komunitas Migrant Indonesia Hong Kong, who became one of the first people to offer Kartika assistance.

"She had no money, no food and no passport. She just kept crying and could not even speak clearly," Sumiati said, describing Kartika's arrival at the Komunitas shelter.

Noticing that she looked hungry, Sumiati cooked two packs of noodles, which the famished maid finished within minutes.

She helped Kartika to contact Indonesia's consulate. She has been in its care since then.

Sherry Cheung Suk-han, the agent who received Kartika in Hong Kong in 2010 and did not see her again until the consulate contacted her in October last year, said the helper had lost a lot of weight and had scars on her face that were not there before.

Despite a terrible two years, Kartika does not bear a grudge towards the city or its people.

"I do not hate Hong Kong," she said. "It's just the two defendants who did the wrong thing. There is nothing wrong with the Hong Kong people."