SINGAPORE: Feeling jealous as she thought she had a heavier workload than her fellow maid, a domestic worker from Indonesia mixed detergent into milk powder meant for a three-month-old infant.
This was to get the younger maid from Myanmar into trouble as part of her "personal vendetta", the court heard.
The 29-year-old maid was sentenced to three years' jail on Friday (Sep 20) after pleading guilty to one charge of attempted poisoning.
All parties cannot be named in order to protect the identity of the victim.
The accused maid had worked for the victim's uncle for three-and-a-half years when she carried out the act, as she was jealous of the other maid in the household who was employed by the victim's parents.
On Sep 6 last year, she made sure no one was watching her before taking a milk powder scoop from a kitchen cabinet and hiding it on top of the refrigerator.
After finishing her ironing, the maid retrieved the scoop from the top of the fridge and went to the master bedroom toilet, where she filled the scoop up to three-quarters full with two types of detergent powder.
She then poured this into a tin of Karihome Goat Milk Infant Formula and mixed it in with the scoop.
She then threw the scoop away, knowing that the milk powder was used only to feed the baby girl in the house, who was about three months old.
BABY'S MOTHER MADE TWO CONTAMINATED BOTTLES OF MILK
The next day, the baby's mother made milk using the contaminated milk powder, as her child was crying.
While shaking the milk bottle to ensure that the powder had dissolved properly, she noticed pink and black particles at the bottom.
She then put this bottle aside and made a fresh one using the contaminated milk powder, said Deputy Public Prosecutor Zhou Yang.
This time, she saw blue particles in the bottle. The mother opened the tin of milk powder and noticed a fragrant smell, similar to detergent powder, the court heard.
Sensing something amiss, she fed her child with breast milk instead.
The family investigated the incident, with the mother even returning to the place she had bought the powder from, and narrowed down the suspects to the accused.
The accused's employer called the police and the maid was arrested.
MAID ADMITTED TO WANTING TO CAUSE PROBLEMS FOR THE OTHER MAID
She admitted that she was jealous of the 25-year-old maid, and had mixed in the detergent to create problems for her.
She also said she was frustrated with the way work was allocated, saying that the other maid merely needed to care for the baby, while she had to do all the household chores.
She felt that she was given "more work" than other maids, and did not want to work for her employer any more, the court heard.
The tin of contaminated milk powder was analysed by the Health Sciences Authority (HSA), which confirmed that there was detergent in it.
CHILD COULD HAVE SUFFERED INJURY TO DIGESTIVE SYSTEM
According to the HSA report, children below the age of six who are exposed to detergents may experience vomiting, coughing, choking, irritation or pain in the eyes, conjunctivitis and drowsiness or lethargy.
They could also suffer effects ranging from vomiting and diarrhoea to caustic injury to their gastrointestinal tract.
The prosecution sought at least three years' jail, saying that the maid's actions were "unwarranted and wholly uncalled for", as there was no evidence of abuse or ill-treatment by the maid's employer or any of the family members.
She had also worked for her employer for more than three years at the time and abused the trust placed in her "purely for her personal vendetta against the other maid", he said.
The baby was unharmed only because the mother was alert enough to notice that the milk smelled and looked funny, said the prosecutor.
The maid, who was unrepresented, listened to proceedings with her head bowed and told an interpreter she was very sorry and that she was the sole breadwinner for her family.
She added that her widow mother was sick and that she was supporting her younger sibling through school and pleaded for a lighter sentence.
CHILD NOT HARMED THANKS TO MOTHER: JUDGE
District Judge Prem Raj noted that the offence of causing hurt by poisoning was a serious one.
"But for the fortuitous intervention by the mother, the offence would have in all likelihood be completed, and an innocent child ... would have been harmed," he said.
"The victim that the accused specifically and deliberately targeted was an innocent, vulnerable and defenceless infant."
He acknowledged the public interest involved in the case, noting Singapore's "peculiar reliance on foreign domestic workers", which has "increased significantly in recent years".
"This was a planned and premeditated offence with active steps taken to avoid detection," said the judge. "So deliberate - that she filled the milk powder scoop with two different types of detergent."
He added that the infant was at "a tender age where her digestive system had yet to develop fully".
The judge took into account the maid's early plea of guilt and her cooperation with authorities.
She could have been given up to five years' jail.