The wife of a police officer has admitted to starving, torturing, and ultimately killing her 24-year-old foreign domestic worker, in court. On Tuesday, 40-year-old Gaiyathiri Murugayan pleaded guilty to 28 charges, including culpable homicide.
The court heard that Myanmar national Ms Piang Ngaih Don began working for Gaiyathiri and her husband Kevin Chelvam on 28 May 2015. Ms Piang, who had a three-year-old son back home in Myanmar, was working in a foreign country for the first time.
Gaiyathiri and Kevin installed CCTV cameras around the house to monitor Ms Piang and did not allow her to have a mobile phone or take a day off.
Unhappy with Ms Piang’s work performance, Gaiyathiri started complaining that the helper was slow, had poor hygiene practices and consumed too much food. She began imposing a strict set of rules for Ms Piang and would shout when she felt Ms Piang was disobeying her.
The Singaporean began physically assaulting Ms Piang in October 2015. The court heard that Gaiyathiri physically assaulted Ms Piang almost daily over the next 10 months and treated her inhumanely – like forcing her to shower and relieve herself with the toilet door open.
Almost every day, Gaiyathiri rained blows and kicks on Ms Piang, pulled her from the ground by the hair, burned her with a heated iron, choked her or hit her with objects like a plastic bottle or metal ladle.
Gaiyathiri also starved Ms Piang until she grew emaciated. Ms Piang, who would be forced to eat sliced bread soaked in water, cold food straight from the refrigerator or just some rice at night, lost 38 per cent of her body weight and weighed just 24 kilograms at the time of her death.
The emaciated victim was also only allowed to sleep for about five hours every night and had to complete her work while wearing multiple layers of face masks as Gaiyathiri claimed she was unhygienic.
Gaiyathiri’s abuse grew worse day by day and Ms Piang was tied to the window grille at night while she slept on the floor in the last 12 days of her life.
The court saw disturbing footage, seized from the CCTV cameras in Gaiyathiri’s home that captured the violent abuse. Footage, which also features Gaiyathiri’s 61-year-old mother Prema S. Naraynasamy, showed Gaiyathiri pouring cold water on the victim, slapping, pushing, punching, kicking and stomping on her while she was on the ground.
One video showed Gaiyathiri’s one-year-old son walking by as she assaulted Ms Piang.
Another disturbing clip showed Ms Piang being grabbed by the hair and shaken like a rag doll.
Less than 14 months after she started working in Singapore, Ms Piang lost her life. Gaiyathiri assaulted Ms Piang for being too slow in doing laundry between 11.40pm and 11.55pm on 25 July. Gaiyathiri and Prema, who often stayed over at her daughter’s place, then took turns to drench Ms Piang with water and assaulted her together.
They left her tied to the window grille and did not give her any dinner.
Gaiyathiri continued terrorizing Ms Piang and repeatedly kicked and stomped on the victim’s head and neck between 4.55am and 5am. Gaiyathiri also grabbed Ms Piang by the hair and pulling her head back with such force that her neck extended backwards twice. She choked Ms Piang repeatedly, as well.
Ms Piang was found motionless at 7.30am. Chelvam left for work and Prema tried reviving her to no avail. When Prema suggested calling for a doctor, Gaiyathiri called a nearby clinic.
In the call, which took place between 9.30am and 9.45am – two hours after Ms Piang was found motionless – Gaiyathiri requested a house call and lied to the nurse that she found the victim motionless on the kitchen floor.
Through the nurse, Dr Grace Kwan suggested that Gaiyathiri call for an ambulance but she insisted on waiting for the doctor. She and Prema then changed Ms Piang out of her wet clothes and carried her to the sofa in the living room.
Dr Kwan arrived at the house around 10.50am and informed Gaiyathiri and Prema that Ms Piang was dead after checking her. Both women pretended to be shocked and lied that Ms Piang had moved minutes earlier.
When Dr Kwan urged Gaiyathiri to call the police, Gaiyathiri asked for time to call Chelvam. She also denied abusing Ms Piang when Dr Kwan asked whether she had beaten the victim.
Dr Kwan called for an ambulance a few minutes thereafter and paramedics, who arrived at about 11.30am, pronounced Ms Piang dead.
The post-mortem report found 31 recent scars and 47 external injuries all over Ms Piang’s body. The coroner ruled that the repeated choking on 25 July caused oxygen deprivation to the brain and led to the victim’s death.
Arguing that Gaiyathiri had developed major depressive disorder during her second pregnancy which worsened her obsessive compulsive personality disorder, the defence is seeking a global jail term of 14 years.
The prosecution is seeking life imprisonment and argued that the charge related to Ms Piang’s death was reduced to culpable homicide from murder after Gaiyathiri’s psychiatric condition was taken into account.
Justice See Kee Oon will sentence Gaiyathiri at a later date. The multiple hurt-related charges Prema and Chelvam are facing in connection with Ms Piang are also before the State Courts.Follow us on Social Media
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