Maid gets 18 years for killing elderly employer
Maid jailed 18 years for killing socialite employer who insulted her and threatened to cut her pay
She splashed a glass of water on the face of her maid, scolded her and then hit her on the head with a tray.
All because the maid, who had just started working for her, used the wrong tray - plastic instead of silver.
Socialite Nancy Gan Wan Geok, 69, paid with her life for her ill-treatment of her maid on March 19, 2014.
Dewi Sukowati, an Indonesian who was 18 at the time, snapped and attacked Madam Gan at her bungalow in Victoria Park Road, near Farrer Road.
She hit her employer's head against a wall and a ceramic-tiled step, then dumped her in a swimming pool, where Madam Gan drowned.
Dewi, now 20, was jailed for 18 years yesterday after pleading guilty to one count of culpable homicide not amounting to murder in the High Court.
The court heard that Dewi began working for Madam Gan, an accomplished pianist and a porcelain artist who donated to charity, just six days before the fatal incident.
CRIME SCENE: Madam Nancy Gan was found dead in her pool.
Dewi's lawyer, Mr Mohamed Muzammil Mohamed, told Judicial Commissioner Foo Chee Hock that his client was underage when she came to Singapore to work for Madam Gan.
Foreign domestic workers in Singapore must be at least 23 years old, and Dewi had used a passport with false information.
Mr Muzammil also said in his client's mitigation that Madam Gan had also assaulted a previous maid and hit Dewi with a broom on her first day of work.
On March 19, 2014, Madam Gan rang a bell after waking up around 7.30am.
When Dewi heard the bell, she brought a glass of warm water on a tray to Madam Gan's bedroom.
The elderly woman became angry when she saw that Dewi had not followed her instruction and used the wrong type of tray.
It was a minor mistake as Dewi had used a plastic tray instead of a silver one, Mr Muzammil told the court.
Deputy Public Prosecutor (DPP) James Low said that Madam Gan scolded the teenager in Bahasa Indonesia: "Wrong again, wrong again, very stupid girl, don't know anything."
She splashed the glass of water on Dewi's face and flung the tray on the floor.
When Dewi squatted down to pick up the tray, Madam Gan snatched it from her. She then hit the back of Dewi's head with the tray.
She told Dewi: "I've already told you, you forget again, you make mistakes again, I will cut your salary until it becomes $200."
Dewi's monthly salary was not mentioned in the court papers.
DPP Low said that Dewi then lost control of herself. She suddenly grabbed hold of Madam Gan's hair with both her hands.
She swung her employer's head against a wall with all her strength, leaving her unconscious and bleeding.
Dewi became worried when she checked Madam Gan and realised she was still alive.
Fearing that her employer would call the police after regaining consciousness, she decided to drown her in a swimming pool located within the landed property.
She dragged Madam Gan to the pool by the hair until they reached a ceramic-tiled step.
DPP Low said: "The accused recalled the deceased's daily scolding and criticism, and became angry again."
Dewi then grabbed Madam Gan's hair and slammed the back of her head against the edge of the step, causing more blood to flow out, he added.
She dragged Madam Gan down a few more steps by her pyjamas until they reached the pool.
Madam Gan's Victoria Park Road bungalow.
She then tipped her employer into the water before throwing the latter's sandals into the water to give the impression that she had committed suicide by drowning.
After cleaning up blood stains on the floor and walls, and changing out of her blood-stained clothes, Dewi went to a neighbour's house and rang the doorbell.
Before the neighbour could answer, she saw despatch rider Mohammad Hasri Abdul Hamid passing by and told him: "Help me, my employer is in the swimming pool."
They went back to the bungalow, and Mr Hasri called the police.
When the police arrived, they arrested Dewi.
Paramedics pronounced Madam Gan dead at 9.07am. The cause of death was found to be drowning, contributed by an injured brain due to a fractured skull.
DPP Low said Dr Kenneth Koh from the Institute of Mental Health found Dewi to have an "abnormality of mind" - acute stress reaction - when she committed the offence.
"Dr Koh noted that the combination of the accused's young age, lack of exposure... enhanced sensitivity to further (alleged) abuse at the hands of a perfectionist employer... conceivably caused her to have reacted instantaneously without heed of the consequences."
For culpable homicide not amounting to murder, Dewi could have been jailed for life, or up to 20 years, and fined.
THE NEW PAPER, MARCH 20, 2014
The accused recalled the deceased's daily scolding and criticism, and became angry again.
- Deputy Public Prosecutor James Low
THE VICTIM: Hostess who didn't cook
Socialite and philanthropist Nancy Gan trained as a classical pianist at the Trinity College in London and had been a porcelain artist since 1986.
Her works on landscapes, animals and flowers on fine porcelain and bone china had been exhibited several times and appeared in the magazine The Peak Singapore.
In 1987, four of her porcelain paintings were also featured on the in-flight menu covers of Singapore Airlines.
The daughter of a commander, she grew up in Hong Kong and married Hong Kong politician Hilton Cheong-Leen in 1990.
Madam Gan's friend who wanted to be known only as Ms Yan told The New Paper that she never had to step into the kitchen.
"She didn't know how to cook when she met her husband," Ms Yan said in an interview in 2014.
"But she became known for hosting dinners at home for ambassadors' wives."
Madam Gan was also involved in many charities in Singapore, the US, Hong Kong, Japan and Australia.
According to a website named after her, Madam Gan participated in fund-raising activities for the Singapore Association of the Visually Handicapped, Singapore Cancer Society and the Bone Marrow Donor Programme.
THE PROSECUTION: Attack was deliberate
The prosecution described Dewi Sukowati's attack on Madam Nancy Gan as "indisputably deliberate".
Deputy Public Prosecutor (DPP) Chee Min Ping said that her fatal assault on the 69-year-old victim was made up of three distinct acts.
The first: Grabbing her by the hair with both hands and swinging her head against a wall.
The second: Slamming the back of her bleeding head against the edge of a ceramic-tiled step.
The third: Flipping her face down into a swimming pool.
Urging Judicial Commissioner Foo Chee Hock to jail Dewi for 20 years, DPP Chee said: "After the first act, the accused had 10 minutes to compose herself and calm herself down."
But she realised Madam Gan was still alive and hatched a plan to drown her in the pool.
While noting that, according to Dewi, Madam Gan had hit her with a tray, DPP Chee said: "Even if the accused had formed the perception that the deceased was at times particular and impatient with her... killing in the context of an employer-domestic worker (relationship) must only be regarded as completely disproportionate and unjustifiable.
"The deceased's acts in this case fall far short of physical abuse."
Even if the accused had formed the perception that the deceased was at times particular and impatient with her... killing in the context of an employer-domestic worker (relationship) must only be regarded as completely disproportionate and unjustifiable.
- Deputy Public Prosecutor Chee Min Ping
THE DEFENCE: Maid was physically abused
Dewi Sukowati's lawyer, Mr Mohamed Muzammil Mohamed, asked the court to jail her for between 10 and 12 years.
In her mitigation, he said that his client had been physically abused by socialite Nancy Gan.
He said that on her first day of work, Madam Gan had poked her on the head and hit her with a broomstick.
Mr Muzammil added that in Dewi's few days of employment, Madam Gan had kicked her on the back and hit her fingers with a plate.
He told the court that Madam Gan had also hit one of her previous maids.
His legal team managed to track down Ms Nurul Putri Mildanti, who had worked for Madam Gan in 2013, in Indonesia, he said.
"According to Nurul Putri, her said employer was a hot-tempered and very impatient person who threw things like trays and other things within her reach at her if she was angry," Mr Muzammil said.
"There was an occasion when Nurul Putri was hit and scratched on her hand by Madam Gan."
He also explained how Dewi, despite being too young to work in Singapore, had managed to circumvent the law.
She had been introduced to a recruiter known only as Pak Bangun, who ran an unaccredited maid employment agency, and he had applied for a passport for her.
When she received the passport from him, she noticed that her date of birth was stated as Aug 5, 1990, even though she was born five years later, Mr Muzammil said.
Pak Bangun told Dewi to lie about her age and date of birth if she was asked about them.
Stressing that his client was an underage worker at the time of the offence, Mr Muzammil said: "The accused was a victim of human trafficking when she came to Singapore to work...
"The accused did not plan or premeditate to cause the death of the victim."