TL;DR – It might have been prevented.
26-year-old Annie Ee Yu Lian tried to kill herself by slitting her wrists. She didn’t succeed. But not long after her attempt, she was found dead in her bed. Prior to that, she suffered eight months of abuse. Her autopsy showed the sickening extent of abuse she suffered: 12 fractured ribs and seven fractured vertebrae, a ruptured stomach and a body crowded with blisters and bruises. All that came from people she had trusted.
Annie, who was intellectually disabled, was living with her longtime friend Tan Hui Zhen, and Tan’s husband Pua Hak Chuan, 38. Annie called Tan jie jie (sister) and Pua jie fu (brother-in-law). Annie trusted them. But Tan and Pua reciprocated her trust by hurting her.
Continuous beatings that escalated
The assault started when Tan blamed Annie for a bedbug infestation. Tan whipped and slapped Annie, banged her head against the wall, tried to strangle her, and kicked and stepped on her. It got worse. Tan and Pua would beat Annie with a roll of shrink wrap on a daily basis.
One night, as a result of the prolonged abuse, Annie got so weak that she urinated several times on the floor. That enraged Tan. Tan questioned Annie why she had urinated on the floor. But Annie was tired and restless. So Tan decided to correct her posture and got angry when Annie started to fall asleep again. She used a roll of shrink wrap that was about 0.5m long and weighed about 1kg to hit Annie multiple times in various places.
Annie died that night. She died of from acute fat embolism. The beating Annie suffered was so bad that her skin and fat dissociated from the muscle layer and the fatty tissue below the skin broke down and went into her blood stream and lungs. This interfered with the the oxygenation of blood in the lungs and led to cardiac and respiratory failure.
It was difficult to read about the case. It was tragic. Understandably, people are angry. Online response are baying for blood. To the extent that they are cursing the lawyers who are defending Tan and Pua. How can any lawyer defend such depraved people?
But there is another side to the story
But the thing is, everyone has the right to be defended by a lawyer. Why? Because there are often many sides to a story. This story is no different. Tan’s side of the story is equally tragic. She had been abused by her own family. She had also suffered three miscarriages. As a result of all that, Tan was diagnosed with moderate to severe depression and borderline personality disorder.
True. None of those justify what Tan did. But it does remind us that there are people who have mental illnesses amongst us. What if Tan was diagnosed earlier? What if she received treatment? Could this tragedy have been prevented?
Also, Annie’s colleagues had actually noticed the bruises all over her body. They had started asking questions. If they had paid more attention, if they had taken more action, if they had reported it to the police or some relevant authorities, could this tragedy have been prevented?
We can help prevent tragedies
This case is heart-wrenching to read about. A life gone too soon. Another two ruined by their own actions. Actions that might have been prevented. So let’s all look out for one another. Watch out for signs of people with mental illnesses and encourage them to seek medical help. Watch out for signs of people who might be abused and report to the authorities.
We all can help.
(Cover image via)