Singaporean woman who starved, assaulted and killed domestic worker sentenced to 30 years in prison

·2-min read
File image: It is estimated that over 250,000 domestic workers from other counties are employed in Singapore (AFP/Getty)
File image: It is estimated that over 250,000 domestic workers from other counties are employed in Singapore (AFP/Getty)

A court in Singapore on Tuesday sentenced a woman who starved, assaulted and killed her domestic worker to 30 years in prison.

In February 2021, Gaiyathiri Murugayan, who is a police officer’s wife, had admitted to starving and beating to death Piang Ngaih Don, an immigrant domestic worker from Myanmar.

While sentencing 41-year-old Murugayan, Singapore High Court judge See Kee Oon said: “Words cannot describe the abject cruelty of the accused’s appalling conduct,” reported The Straits Times.

The judge called the case as “among the worst type of culpable homicide” and said the 24-year-old victim was made to suffer for a long time before she died.

The case had led to the island nation’s government to announce measures to check the wellbeing of all new foreign staff employed at homes.

However, the court while deciding the case said four previous domestic workers of Murugayan’s had not registered any case against her and she did not appear to be a pathologically violent person. It also noted that the fact she was suffering from a psychiatric condition that affected her judgment.

The victim, a Myanmar national, who had come to Singapore in May 2015, died in July 2016. At the time of her death, her weight was only 24 kilograms. During the last two weeks of her life, the victim was tied to a window at night and made to sleep on the floor.

Camera footage played in court showed the worker being slapped, pushed, punched, kicked and stamped on. It had showed Murugayan pouring cold water on the domestic worker and shaking her like a rag doll.

The victim’s ordeal was captured by cameras that the accused and her husband had installed to monitor the domestic worker and two children.

She pleaded guilty to 28 charges including that of culpable homicide. Later, another 87 charges were taken into consideration, said the news report. Murugayan’s lawyer Joseph Chen had sought a jail term of eight to nine years highlighting mental disorder of the client.

It was assessed that the Murugayan had developed major depressive disorder when she was pregnant with her second child.

Her lawyers 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.”

However, Mohamed Faizal Mohamed Abdul Kadir, the deputy public prosecutor, disagreed and said a mental disorder is “not a free pass”. He described Murugayan’s claim as “cruel and heinous”.

Murugayan’s husband Mr Chelvam was suspended from the police in 2016 and he is also facing multiple charges related to the abuse of the domestic worker. Her 62-year-old mother is also facing the charges in the case.

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