Woman, 78, jailed for a year by Hong Kong court for pouring hot water on Indonesian domestic helper
- Indonesian Chinese Gee Hoo Giok maintained her innocence and family says she was framed by helper
- Helper says they had a row and Gee had blamed her for husband’s death
A 78-year-old Indonesian Chinese woman found guilty of pouring hot water on her domestic helper was jailed for a year by a Hong Kong court on Monday.
But Gee Hoo Giok maintained her innocence, with her family saying she was framed by her former helper, Ismiati, 29, also from Indonesia.
“Judge, judge, you have misjudged me,” Gee shouted from the dock as Deputy District Judge Li Chi-ho returned to his chambers after the hearing. “I’ve never done something like this, how could you sentence me like that?”
Gee was found guilty earlier this month on charges of causing grievous bodily harm with intent and terminating the contract of an employee during a period of incapacity.
The District Court heard Gee hired Ismiati in January last year to take care of her husband, who was diagnosed with Parkinson’s disease in 2005.
But Gee’s husband died on March 3, before Ismiati arrived.
Two days after Ismiati reported for work on March 27, the helper recalled that Gee complained about her slow cooking and suddenly poured hot water from a kettle on her back while she was preparing dinner.
Ismiati also claimed Gee blamed and scolded her for her husband’s death. She recalled herself retorting: “Your husband will die if he is meant to die.”
The helper was fired on the same day.
Subsequent medical examination found she had moderate-degree burns, with redness from the back of her neck to her lower back, as well as ruptured blisters and peeling skin.
“The pain increased every day,” Ismiati testified during the trial through an Indonesian interpreter. “I couldn’t lie down on my back.”
Gee countered that she knew nothing about the burns and claimed she never complained about Ismiati because she was grateful to have her.
But the judge rejected Gee’s account, questioning why Ismiati would hurt herself just to frame her employer.
A clinical psychologist who interviewed Gee said it was hard to ascertain her intent behind the assault since she “totally denied the index offence”.
But he said it was possible that she attacked Ismiati on a moment of impulse given that she was still grieving for her husband and that she might have faced adjustment difficulties with a new helper.
His report also noted there was no strong evidence to indicate habitual use of violence and concluded Gee had a low chance of reoffending.
Gee’s medical report further revealed she needed psychiatric treatment following the incident as she was worried about the case and suffered from depressive tendencies.
Fifteen letters from Gee’s family and colleagues were submitted in her mitigation.
Her daughter’s helper, who had worked for the family for 13 years, also pleaded for leniency, saying she had never seen Gee being unfriendly towards helpers.
The judge accepted that the case was an isolated incident. He said he understood that the death of a life partner could bring immense pain and that the victim might have said things to provoke the attack.
But he also noted that the victim was attacked from behind with no opportunity to defend herself, and that she must have experienced a painful recovery.
“The court believes imprisonment is the only option,” Li said.
Still, he considered Gee’s age and reduced the starting point of sentence from 15 months to 12.
Gee was further fined HK$500 for the labour offence.
Ismiati has since recovered from her injuries.