Housewife Tan Hui Zhen was sentenced to 16-and-a-half years' jail, while her husband, storeman Pua Hak Chuan, received a sentence of 14 years’ jail and 14 strokes of the cane.
The couple were convicted on Monday of multiple charges of assaulting 26-year-old Annie Ee Yu Lian over eight months, from August 2014 until her death on Apr 13, 2015.
An autopsy detailed the extent of the abuse she suffered: Twelve fractured ribs and seven fractured vertebrae, a ruptured stomach and a body crowded with blisters and bruises.
In court on Friday, Justice Hoo Sheau Peng called the case "appalling".
"The accused persons abused the victim in an extremely cruel and inhumane manner … substantial sentences are called for as punishment to reflect the gravity and severity of (their) offences,” Justice Hoo said.
"Both the accused have abused the victim in an inhumane and cruel demeanour. They fully abused the victim's trust in them," he said.
The couple also showed an "utter lack of contrition", the judge said.
Though Ms Ee was “in a pitiable state” and had become incontinent, the couple decided against seeking medical attention.
Instead, “they remained more interested in themselves,” Justice Hoo said. To escape detection, Tan arranged for Ms Ee to change jobs and “pretended to show care” when Ms Ee’s colleague raised questions about her physical state.
“The victim was a vulnerable victim and of low intelligence. She trusted them and treated them like family. They abused her trust."
In the face of Ms Ee's suffering, Tan and Pua "did not repent".
“They continued to physically and emotionally abuse her … (Ms Ee) died in an undignified way, after suffering pain over the course of hours, and being deprived of medical attention,” Justice Hoo said.
Ms Ee died after eight months of abuse. “Throughout this time, (Ms Ee) did not protest. Unfortunately, her silence appeared to have emboldened the accused persons,” Justice Hoo said.
Turning to Tan’s multiple psychiatric conditions, Justice Hoo said Tan “knew full well what she was doing … she took full advantage of (Ms Ee’s) trust and got (Pua) involved in the abuse,” the judge noted.
She said “little weight” should be given to Tan’s psychiatric conditions.
26-year-old Annie Ee Yu Lian was found dead in her bed on Apr 13, 2015. (Photo: Facebook/Annie Ee Yu Lian)
Ms Ee had been “pulverised", Deputy Public Prosecutors April Phang and Claire Poh said. She had been “tortured”, “stripped of her money, her dignity and her will to live”, they told the High Court.
The couple assaulted Ms Ee with their bare hands at first, but graduated to beating her with items including Tan’s bedroom slippers, a plastic belt, a bamboo stick and a plastic dustbin.
But the implement Ms Ee feared most was a large, heavy roll of shrink wrap measuring 51.5cm by 24cm, the court heard.
The couple also subjected her to psychological abuse by intimidating and taunting her, “undermining her sense of self-worth”, the prosecutors said. Ms Ee had attempted to kill herself “as a result of the accused persons’ persistent humiliation", they told the court.
Tan and Pua also financially exploited the victim by forcing her to hand over her entire paycheck of S$1,200 to Tan, who gave her a weekly allowance of S$50, which she later reduced to S$30.
Ms Ee was also made to record made-up sums of money in Tan’s “book of debts” to “compensate” for every time she angered Tan, whom she called “jie jie" (older sister in Mandarin).
They had sought 15 years’ jail for Tan and 14 years’ jail and 12 strokes of the cane for Pua, who said he should have “manned up” to his wife and put a stop the horrific abuse.
Instead, he was henpecked into the role of “standby slapper”, and would take over slapping Ms Ee whenever his wife told him to, the court heard.
Originally charged with murder, Tan, 33, qualified for the defence of diminished responsibility because she was suffering from moderate to severe depression and borderline personality disorder at the time of the offences, according to a psychiatric report.
She was convicted of reduced charges of causing grievous hurt with a weapon, as was Tan, who also initially faced a murder charge.