From childhood friend to torturer: Annie Ee’s sister on the woman responsible for family heartbreak

Annie Ee's sister has told Channel NewsAsia that the prison sentence given to Tan Hui Zhen "is never enough compared to the sufferings my sister has gone through".
SINGAPORE: She was a close friend of the Ee family, and doted on the children. Little did they know that housewife Tan Hui Zhen, 33, would be the cause of devastating heartbreak in the years to come.
More than two-and-a-half years after she was found dead on Apr 13, 2015, 26-year-old Annie Ee Yu Lian’s tormentors – Tan and her husband, Pua Hak Chuan, 38 – have been sentenced to jail.
Now 26, Annie’s younger sister has told Channel NewsAsia of Tan’s transformation from friend to tormentor.

“I’ve known her (Tan) since I was seven. She was always doting on us … I never would have thought that she would torture Annie,” said her sister, who asked that her name was not published.
The couple physically and psychologically abused Annie for eight months, from August 2014 until she died in her sleep, severely injured. The couple had battered Annie’s body and mind and shattered her self-worth. She was beaten daily, taunted and intimidated, and forced to hand over her entire paycheck.
An autopsy detailed the extent of the physical abuse she suffered: Twelve fractured ribs and seven fractured vertebrae, a ruptured stomach and a body crowded with blisters and bruises.
“(Tan) was in total control of my sister,” said the sister, in an interview conducted via WhatsApp.
She recalled the shock of finding out that Annie had been battered and abused by Tan. Though the police had visited the Ee household to break the news of their sister’s death, “we only knew about the abuse the next day, when we saw (a picture of) her bruised face in the newspaper,” she said.
Tan was so close to the Ee family that it was to them she turned to when she faced trouble in her marriage. Once, Tan showed up with a bruised face after a fight with Pua, and the Ee family took her in. “She stayed with (us). We gave her shelter and food,” Annie’s sister said.
Though Annie was the eldest of the Ee siblings, her younger brothers and sisters were fiercely protective of her.
“Her freedom was sometimes compromised,” her sister admitted, because the family worried Annie would be “bullied or cheated” due to her simple nature.
She described Annie as a friendly girl who loved dogs and who would strike up conversations with strangers.
“My sister felt that our family was being unfair to her (by) not giving her the freedom to make her own friends … she felt that she was old enough to look after herself,” her sister said.
It seems that Annie eventually decided to strike out on her own, and ended up moving into Tan and Pua’s flat in Woodlands.
Annie agreed to earn her keep by doing the housework, but ended up cooking and cleaning for the couple, who “exploited her low intellect and social isolation, and manipulated her into thinking that she was insurmountably indebted to them,” prosecutors had said.
“We realised my sister’s behaviour and attitude started to change … we knew that Tan was trying to manipulate my sister, so we tried to stop her from contacting Tan."
But Annie was very defensive of Tan, the sister said, and drew more distant as her family tried to intervene. “She was in total control of my sister,” she said of Tan.
“My sister loved (Tan) … no matter how we tried to stop her … she didn’t believe what we told her, because she felt that (Tan) was always (on her side).
“Some of the family (went to) where Annie worked, but she would avoid eye contact. We tried getting her number, but she was stubborn and said she would contact us … and asked us to stop forcing her.”

When Tan and Pua were convicted of multiple charges of assaulting Annie on Monday, Annie’s story went viral and triggered an outpouring of public outrage and support in equal measure.
“We are really grateful,” Annie’s sister said. “Though some people might have misunderstood … that we kicked Annie out, many others have grieved with us.
“We are really touched by their words - sincerely, thank you.”
Turning to the public apologies by the Tan and Pua families, Annie’s sister said the Ee family “will never be able to forgive what (they) did, especially Tan”.
And while the pair received long sentences, that is scant consolation: “The sentence, of course, to my family is never enough compared to the sufferings my sister has gone through.”
But there is some relief that Annie’s suffering has ended, her sister said.
“We hope she finds peace … be happy … and be free.”
Source: CNA/vc

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