The 41-year-old Singaporean housewife who tortured, starved, and killed her domestic help – the 24-year-old Piang Ngaih Don from Myanmar – was sentenced to 30 years imprisonment.
The Singapore High Court sentenced Gaiyathiri Murugayan, for what was described as one of the most gruesome acts of violence.
High Court judge See Kee Oon said, “Words cannot describe the abject cruelty of the accused’s appalling conduct.” He went on to describe the case as “among the worst type of culpable homicide.” He also noted that the victim was made to suffer for a long time before she ultimately died.
Myanmar Maid Killed By Employer: Pleaded Guilty To Culpable Homicide
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The house help’s death dates back to 2015, when the case famously caught everyone’s attention as “Myanmar maid killed by employer.”
Gaiyathiri pleaded guilty to all charges earlier this year that included culpable homicide, for which prosecutors demanded the maximum sentence of imprisonment.
Despite the cruel act of violence, the court charged the resident with homicide and not murder, after the defence counsel established that Gaiyathiri’s psychiatric condition affected her judgment.
The woman’s previous four domestic helps had not lodged any reports against her and she did not appear to be a pathologically violent person then.
However, Gaiyathiri’s defence counsel Joseph Chen argued that the woman was a mentally disordered mother after giving birth. She was struggling to cope with her children’s illnesses.
Gaiyathiri believed the maid’s poor hygiene caused the children’s illnesses.
Myanmar Maid Killed By Employer: Gaiyathiri Suffered From Depression & OCD
The doctors concluded that Gaiyathiri had major depressive disorder when pregnant with her second child. She also had Obsessive-Compulsive personality disorder.
In his argument, Chen said, “It was a combination of stressors that led to her evolving from a non-maid abuser to a maid abuser. She has gone back to her previous self as a non-maid abuser.”
The defence counsel urged the court to place more weight on rehabilitation for his client and other mothers suffering from postpartum depression. He further added that his client showed remorse and regretted that Piang had been unable to reach out for help.
Furthermore, Chen sought a gag order from the court to curb publications from carrying Gaiyathiri’s name in this case, in order to protect her children.
However, the public prosecutor Deputy Public Prosecutor Mohamed Faizal Mohamed Abdul Kadir rebutted stating that “a mental disorder is not a free pass.” He further said, “This is a shocking case without parallel,” describing the 41-year-old’s conduct as “cruel and heinous.”
Assaulted For Months Before Death
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Gaiyathiri, her mother Prema S. Naraynasamy, 62, and her husband, former cop Kevin Chelvam, 42, all stand accused in the death of Piang Ngaih Don. Gaiyathiri is charged with varying degrees of physical abuse that continued for months. The court considered an additional 87 charges.
Maid was kept in abhorrent conditions
Piang weighed merely 24 kg when she died on July 26, 2016, from the final assault. The young woman from Myanmar started working for the family on May 28, 2015.
She was assaulted on a daily basis. Surveillance cameras revealed that Gaiyathiri pouring cold water as well as slapping, pushing, punching, kicking and stomping on her. They also hit her with objects, pulled by her hair, and burnt her with a heated iron.
They deprived Piang of food and her meals often comprised sliced bread soaked in water, cold food or some rice at night. Gaiyathiri also made the maid shower with the toilet door open.
Torture And Abuse That Led To Death
The abuse and torture were at their peak right before the Myanmar maid’s death. They had tied Piang to the window grille for the last 12 days of her life and she was sleeping on the floor.
On the night of July 25, 2016, Gaiyathiri and Prema assaulted her once again for doing laundry slowly and Gaiyathiri even allegedly went to the extent of choking her. A doctor pronounced her dead at the flat a few hours later.
The cases against Prema and Chevlam are still pending in court. The prosecutor had sought at least 27 years in jail, if not a life term.
As for their marriage, Chevlam and Gaiyathiri finalised their divorce in January this year. The former couple has two children.
MOM Increased Safety Of Foreign Domestic Workers
The gruesome details of the case have been instrumental in getting the Ministry of Manpower (MOM) to take serious action against the safety of foreign domestic workers.
The government reviewed three key areas to ensure better protection of house help. This included starting a house visit scheme from April this year and also conduct interviews to ensure the maid’s safety and welfare.
HELPLINE (For Foreign Domestic Workers)
Contact: 1800 797 7977 (Toll-free)
Contact: +65 9787 3122 (Whatsapp / Viber / SMS)
Healthserve: The group works to provide proper assistance to the migrant workers who are facing any kind of problems in Singapore. It aims to offer a life of dignity to every migrant worker.
Email: [email protected]
Tel: 3157 4450
Foreign Domestic Worker Association
E-mail: [email protected]
Tel: +65 6509 1535
Source: The Straits Times | Lead/feature image courtesy: The Straits Times/YouTube
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