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Death of Myanmar maid: Woman jailed for joining daughter in one of Singapore's worst maid abuse cases

Death of Myanmar maid: Woman jailed for joining daughter in one of Singapore's worst maid abuse cases

Prema S Naraynasamy (left), being taken back to the scene of the alleged crime in 2017 and an old photo of Ms Piang Ngaih Don. (Photos: TODAY, Facebook/Helping Hands for Migrant Workers, Singapore)

SINGAPORE: A woman who joined her daughter in abusing a maid until she died of a brain injury has been sentenced to 14 years' jail.

Prema S Naraynasamy, 64, was given the sentence on Monday (Jan 9) over the abuse of 24-year-old Myanmar national Piang Ngaih Don.

Prema had pleaded guilty in November to 48 charges, mostly of voluntarily causing hurt to a maid. 

Her acts of abuse include: Pouring or spraying water on the 24-year-old maid, kicking, punching and slapping her, grabbing her by the neck, pulling her up by her hair and "spinning" her head violently.

She also hit the maid with tools like a spatula, a towel and a detergent bottle, and watched as the maid used the toilet.

The domestic helper died of brain injury with severe blunt trauma to her neck on Jul 26, 2016, after 14 months of repeated abuse.

She was punched, stamped on and starved until she was only 24kg. In the days before she died, she was tied to a window grille at night and assaulted if she tried to rummage for food from the dustbin.

The assault that led to the victim's death occurred from the night of Jul 25, 2016 into the morning of Jul 26, 2016.

The helper was doing laundry at about 11.40pm on Jul 25, 2016, when Prema's daughter, Gaiyathiri Murugayan, felt she was too slow. She assaulted her and struck her head with a detergent bottle.

The victim fell backwards, grew disorientated and could not stand up after her legs gave out from under her. 

Gaiyathiri called Prema over, and together they assaulted the victim, splashing water on her. Prema dragged the victim across the kitchen and living room to the bedroom, where Gaiyathiri kicked her in the stomach and Prema punched and strangled her.

After refusing the maid any dinner, Gaiyathiri tied the victim's wrist forcefully to the window grille just before midnight and kicked her in the stomach, before leaving her on the floor in wet clothes.

Ms Piang Ngaih Don did not wake up after that. Mother and daughter called in a doctor, lying about what happened, and were later arrested.

SHOCKING, HEINOUS OFFENCES: PROSECUTION

Prosecutors called for 14 to 16 years' jail for Prema, while defence lawyer Rai Satish asked for 10 years.

Deputy Public Prosecutor Senthilkumaran Sabapathy said the basis for seeking the jail term was "the shocking and heinous nature" of the offences.

He called the case one of the worst cases of abuse of a domestic helper in Singapore's history, involving a high degree of physical and psychological harm and an "exceptionally high level of culpability" on Prema's part. 

He said the victim was assaulted on an almost daily basis and suffered "shocking humiliation and degradation".

She was assaulted while trying to eat and dragged and thrown around the house "like a ragdoll" in a manner that showed a "complete lack of respect" for the deceased as a fellow human being, said the prosecutor.

"In fact, most of us won't even treat inanimate objects in that manner," he said, adding that the victim could not even use the toilet without being verbally and physically abused.

"Her life was nothing short of a living nightmare," said the prosecutor.

While Prema's daughter suffered from a mental condition, Prema had none. She was an active participant in the abuse and did not intervene to stop her daughter, even though she could have from the start, he added.

Prema’s daughter Gaiyathiri had been sentenced to 30 years' jail in 2021. Her appeal for her sentence to be halved was dismissed by the Apex Court.

Prema's lawyer said there were happy times in the victim's employment.

He said his client knows, after spending six months and six years on remand, that she has done something wrong.

"She's weighed down by the guilt of it all. You can see that her physical health has deteriorated quite considerably after she's been in remand - I think that's attributable to the guilt," he said.

"She's painted to be this vile and wicked person, I think that's an unfair characterisation," said the lawyer, adding that there were instances of "kindness".

Source: CNA/lk(rj)

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