Singapore

Woman admits to starving, torturing and ultimately killing maid

Prosecution seeking life imprisonment for wife of police officer who starved and tortured Myanmar helper till she weighed only 24kg

Chilling footage of an emaciated domestic worker being grabbed by the hair and shaken like a rag doll was played in court yesterday.

Her Singaporean employer, the wife of a police officer, admitted that she had starved, tortured and ultimately killed her 24-year-old Myanmar helper.

Prosecutors are seeking life imprisonment for Gaiyathiri Murugayan, 40, after she pleaded guilty to 28 charges, the most serious being one of culpable homicide.

For close to 10 months, the maid, Ms Piang Ngaih Don, was physically assaulted almost daily, deprived of food and rest, and made to shower and relieve herself with the toilet door open.

In the last 12 days of her life, she was tied to the window grille at night while she slept on the floor.

The Myanmar national weighed 24kg when she died on July 26, 2016, from the final assault, having lost 38 per cent of her body weight since she started working for the family on May 28, 2015.

ORDEAL

The ordeal she suffered in the last month of her life was captured on closed-circuit television cameras that Gaiyathiri and her husband, Kevin Chelvam, 41, had installed in their Bishan flat to monitor the maid and their two children.

In one incident, the couple's one-year-old son could be seen toddling around as his mother assaulted the maid.

Gaiyathiri's mother, Prema S. Naraynasamy, 61, who often stayed at the flat, was also seen in the footage.

Both Prema and Chelvam face multiple hurt-related charges in connection with the victim. Their cases are pending.

The defence is seeking a jail term of 14 years for Gaiyathiri, noting that she developed major depressive disorder while she was pregnant, and it amplified her obsessive compulsive personality disorder.

But prosecutors argued that her psychiatric condition had already been taken into account when the charge was reduced from murder to culpable homicide.

Justice See Kee Oon will give his decision at a later date.

The court heard that Ms Piang was not allowed to have a mobile phone or any day off.

Gaiyathiri was unhappy with her and felt she was slow, had poor hygiene practices and ate too much.

She established a set of rules and would shout when she felt Ms Piang was being disobedient. This escalated to physical abuse in October 2015.

On July 25, 2016, the maid was assaulted for being too slow in doing laundry.

Later, Gaiyathiri kicked and stomped on Ms Piang's head and neck area, grabbed her hair and pulled her head back, and choked her repeatedly.

When Ms Piang was found motionless, they decided to call for a doctor, who arrived and told them the maid was dead.

This article first appeared in The Straits Times.

COURT & CRIME