Life imprisonment for maid who fatally stabbed employer more than 90 times

Wan Ting Koh
·Senior Reporter
·4-min read
Woman's hand holding a knife.
Woman's hand holding a knife. (PHOTO: Getty Images)

SINGAPORE — An Indonesian domestic worker who stabbed and slashed her 59-year-old employer to death in 2016 was sentenced to life imprisonment on Friday (23 April).

This is the second time Daryati, who goes by one name, is being convicted of murdering Seow Kim Choo on 7 June 2016. Seow died from multiple incised and stab wounds to the head and neck. She had at least 94 such wounds on her body.

Daryati, 28, had originally faced a charge under Section 300(a) of the Penal Code, for killing with the intention to cause death, which carries the mandatory death penalty. 

Partway through her trial, the prosecution reduced the charge to murder under Section 300(c), which carries life imprisonment or the death sentence, but prosecutors said they would not be seeking the death penalty. Daryati decided to plead guilty to this charge. 

Before she could be sentenced, Daryati changed her mind and wanted to run the defence of diminished responsibility, spurring the court to set aside her conviction and resume the trial. Daryati then called a psychiatrist as a defence witness. 

On Friday, Justice Valerie Thean rejected her defence that she was suffering from a mental disorder that reduced her responsibility for the killing. 

Justice Thean noted the evidence showed Daryati did not have a reduced capacity to understand events, judge the wrongness of her actions and exercise self-control. In fact, Daryati had planned the offence by concealing knives around the home and "exhibited quickness of thought" in dealing with Seow in the toilet, and in anticipating and dealing with the entry of Seow's husband Ong Thiam Soon 

The defence psychiatrist report was also based on Daryati's self-reported symptoms with no independent facts corroborating them, said the judge. 

"In fact, evidence was adduced in court to the contrary, that she did not have weight loss, insomnia, or difficulty performing work, or fulfil the depressed mood criteria."

Maid wanted passport back

Soon after she began her employment for Seow on 13 April 2016, Daryati became homesick and longed for her lover, who was working in Hong Kong. Daryati wanted to return to Indonesia, but her passport was locked in a safe in the master bedroom.

Daryati also faced financial problems as her father had a stroke and her younger sister had school fees to pay. The maid also wanted to start a business back home.

Knowing that her employers kept the keys to the safe and believing that there was money in a locked drawer in the house, Daryati devised a plan to threaten Seow for the keys. She was prepared to attack and kill Seow if necessary.

On 12 May 2016, Daryati jotted in her diary, “I must carry out this plan quickly. I have to be brave even though life is at stake. I am ready to face all risks / consequences, whatever the risk, I must be ready to accept it...My employer’s family is my target... death!!!”

Daryati drew a map on 2 June 2016, detailing the layout of the house to plan her escape route. A few days later, Daryati hid weapons around the house, including two knives and a hammer in the master bedroom and its en suite toilet, and another room.

On 7 June 2016, Daryati hid a knife in her pants and headed to the master bedroom with Seow’s ironed pants and a basket of folded clothes. As she headed into the wardrobe area of the master bedroom with Seow, Daryati slipped out the knife and pointed it at Seow’s neck, demanding her passport back.

Seow began shouting and Daryati pulled her into the master bedroom toilet. The maid then stabbed and slashed Seow multiple times on the neck, head and face, killing her. When Ong pried open the toilet door, Daryati stabbed him below his neck.

Ong managed to overpower Daryati and dragged her out of the room. Along with the assistance of other family members, Ong managed to bind Daryati with cable ties and an ambulance was called.

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