Maid abuse trial: Couple pleads guilty to starving maid
Couple plead guilty to starving maid
For 15 months, the maid starved while working for the couple.
She was so hungry, she asked for more food so she could look after their three children and do the housework.
They refused, causing her to lose 20kg, which led to her hair falling out. She even stopped menstruating.
While they fed themselves nutritious meals, they made her ask for permission to drink water and would not let her use the toilet at home.
Freelance trader Lim Choon Hong, and his wife, Chong Sui Foon, both 47, had initially claimed trial to starving their former maid, Madam Thelma Oyasan Gawidan, a Filipina.
But yesterday, they pleaded guilty to their offences.
The court heard that while working for the Singaporean couple between Jan 23, 2013 and April 18, 2014, Madam Gawidan's weight plummeted from 49kg to 29.4kg.
She stopped menstruating in February 2013, became weaker and noticed that her hair was falling out.
She finally fled from their eighth-storey apartment at the Boulevard Residence condominium in Cuscaden Walk near Orchard Road on April 19, 2014.
She was later taken by a friend to the office of a foreign workers' advocacy group, the Humanitarian Organisation for Migration Economics (Home), at nearby Lucky Plaza.
Yesterday, Lim pleaded guilty to contravening the Employment of Foreign Manpower (Work Passes) Regulations 2012 by failing to provide Madam Gawidan, 40, with adequate food, causing the weight loss.
Chong pleaded guilty to abetting him in committing the offence.
Lim's job required him to work during the night as he dealt with overseas clients.
The couple have three children who are between 17 and 22 years old.
Both Lim and Chong were stoic in the dock as they appeared before District Judge Low Wee Ping.
Deputy Public Prosecutor Tan Soo Tet said that the couple provided Madam Gawidan with two meals a day while she was working for them.
The first meal, two to three slices of plain white bread and one to two packets of instant noodles, were usually provided at around 1am to 2am.
Chong, a housewife, would mix eggs or very small portions of meat and vegetables - a slice of tomato or cucumber - to the noodles.
Her second meal of five to six slices of plain white bread was usually provided in the late morning or early afternoon.
At some point during her employment, she was forbidden from using the toilet in their home to shower and relieve herself.
Instead, she had to use a common toilet on the third storey of the condominium block.
Beginning in January 2014, Chong would stand inside the toilet while Madam Gawidan showered. The maid was allowed to shower only once or twice a week.
She noticed she was being given smaller portions of food.
DPP Tan said: "The victim was also not allowed to drink water on her own.
"She would have to approach Chong whenever she wanted to drink and Chong would then give her water from the tap."
Once, Madam Gawidan tried to ask Lim for more food, but he brushed her off.
Her mobile phone had been confiscated so she had no way of asking her maid agency for help.
She finally escaped on April 19, 2014 while cleaning an area near the lift.
She went to the nearby Far East Shopping Centre and, with the help of a shop employee, managed to contact one of her town mates, a woman known only as "Lilibeth".
Ms Lilibeth accompanied her to the Home office and officers there referred Madam Gawidan to the Ministry of Manpower.
According to Khoo Teck Puat Hospital's chief dietitian, Ms Gladys Wong Hooi Chuan, Madam Gawidan was supposed to consume about 1,700 calories a day.
Based on her diet then, she consumed only about 900 calories daily.
DPP Tan said: "The victim's body mass index dropped from 24.3 to 14.4, which fell into the category of risk of nutritional deficiency, diseases and even osteoporosis at the World Health Organisation standard."
Chong and Lim, who are represented by lawyer Raymond Lye, are out on bail of $3,000 each and will go for psychiatric assessments.
The couple will be back in court on April 20. For committing the offence, they can each by jailed for up to a year and fined up to $10,000.