Singaporean who tortured and killed Myanmar maid gets 30 years in jail

Young woman cleaning window

Singapore is home to some 250,000 foreign domestic workers (file picture)

A Singaporean woman found guilty of starving, torturing and killing her domestic worker from Myanmar, has been sentenced to 30 years in prison.

Piang Ngaih Don reportedly weighed only 24kg (53lb) when she died from her injuries in 2016.

Prosecutors have called the actions of Gaiyathiri Murugayan, the wife of a policeman “evil and utterly inhumane”.

It is among a series of high-profile maid abuse cases in the wealthy city-state in recent years.

Ms Murugayan, 40, had pleaded guilty to a number of charges including culpable homicide against Ms Piang.

The judge said the prosecution had painted a “shocking” picture of how the 24-year old woman was tortured, humiliated, starved and ultimately killed.

He said the case was “one of the worst cases of culpable homicide” in the city-state and that words could not accurately describe the level of abuse the young woman had to endure in the month before her death.

During the trial, the court heard that Ms Murugayan began abusing the young woman from October 2015, shortly after Ms Piang had arrived in Singapore for her first job overseas.

CCTV footage from cameras installed in the house showed the abuse she suffered in the last month of her life, often being assaulted several times a day.

Ms Murugayan also reportedly burned her with a heated clothes iron and was accused of “throwing her around like a ragdoll”.

The court heard that Ms Piang’s meals often consisted of sliced bread soaked in water, cold food from the fridge, or some rice. She lost 15kg – about 38% of her body weight – in 14 months.

The 24-year-old helper died in July 2016 after she was repeatedly assaulted over several hours by Ms Murugayan and her mother.

An autopsy report later found Ms Piang died from oxygen deprivation to her brain after being repeatedly choked.

Ms Murugayan’s lawyers had sought a sentence of eight or nine years, arguing that the defendant had been suffering from depression and obsessive compulsive personality disorder.

Her husband – who has been suspended from his job as a police officer – and her mother face several charges linked to the case.

Singapore is home to around 250,000 foreign domestic workers, typically from countries like Indonesia, Myanmar or the Philippines.

Abuse cases are not uncommon. In 2017, a couple were jailed for starving their domestic worker from the Philippines. In 2019, another couple was jailed for abusing a worker from Myanmar.

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In 2017 the BBC spoke to a Filipino housemaid who said she was abused by a rich family in Brazil.

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