A Singaporean woman who starved, assaulted and ultimately killed her domestic worker was sentenced to 30 years in prison Tuesday, with the judge describing the case as “among the worst types of culpable homicide”.
The affluent city-state is home to about 250,000 domestic workers who mostly come from poorer Asian countries, and
stories of mistreatment are common.
But the abuse inflicted on Myanmar national Piang Ngaih Don, 24, was particularly awful and captured on CCTV
installed in the family’s home. She stamped on the domestic worker, strangled, choked, battered her with brooms and
burnt her with an iron, according to court documents.
The domestic worker died in July 2016, after her employer, Gaiyathiri Murugayan, repeatedly assaulted her over several hours.
Gaiyathiri, 41, pleaded guilty in February to 28 charges including culpable homicide. Another 87 charges were taken into account in sentencing.
She appeared in court on Tuesday wearing glasses and a black mask, and sat silently with her eyes closed and also head bowed as the judge read his decision.
After hearing an additional plea of mitigation submitted by Gaiyathiri in a bid to avoid the life sentence sought by the
prosecution, Justice See Kee Oon sentenced her to 30 years in prison starting from the date of her arrest in 2016.
See cited the “abject cruelty of the accused’s appalling conduct” in his sentencing, which he added must signal
“societal outrage and abhorrence” at the crime.
But taking into account
The defendant’s obsessive compulsive disorder and the depression she developed around the time she gave birth, See
said he did not think that life imprisonment was “fair and appropriate”.
The prosecution had sought a reduced charge of culpable homicide rather than murder — punishable with the death
penalty in Singapore — after taking into account her mental health.
Gaiyathiri and her husband, a police officer, employed the maid in 2015 to help take care of their four-year-old daughter and also one-year-old son.
But Gaiyathiri physically assaulted the victim almost daily, often several times a day, with her 61-year-old mother
sometimes joining in, according to court documents.
The family only allowed the domestic worker, who they have employed by for over a year at the time of her death,
to sleep for five hours a night, and they also forced to shower and relieve herself with the door open.
Provided very little food, she lost about 38 percent of her body weight during her employment, and only weighed 24
kilogrammes (53 pounds) at the time of her death.
However, Gaiyathiri’s lawyer Joseph Chen had asked for a sentence of eight to nine years, arguing that a “combination of stresses” had turned the struggling mother into an abuser.
He argued that a harsh sentence would deter mothers in a similar situation from asking for help — an argument that the prosecution called “disingenuous”.
By Victoria E.I