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A domestic helper became so enraged by her elderly employee repeatedly nagging at her for taking a long time to eat, that she took a knife and plunged it into the victim’s neck.
When questioned, she told the police that Madam Tay Quee Lang, 77, had committed suicide.
Minah, the 38-year-old Indonesian maid, was sentenced to 15 years’ jail on Monday (April 23) after she pleaded guilty to one charge of culpable homicide for killing Madam Tay in her flat at Tampines Street 22 on Feb 13, 2017.
Deputy Public Prosecutor Bhajanvir Singh had sought a deterrent sentence for the “senseless and unwarranted” killing that arose from a minor squabble, arguing that acts of physical violence by domestic workers against employers must be condemned.
Judicial Commissioner Audrey Lim agreed, saying that the maid’s response to the Madam Tay’s nagging was “clearly disproportionate and unwarranted”.
“It's not a case where the deceased had used any form of violence or used any threat against you.”
Two of Madam Tay’s family members were in the public gallery as the sentence was read out, reports The Straits Times.
One started sobbing, while the other pumped his fist and uttered “yes”.
The two also shouted "Satan", "die in prison" and "go to hell” at Minah as she was led away by guards after court was adjourned.
The High Court heard that Minah had started working for Madam Tay and her 78-year-old husband, Mr Tan Hee Seng, in January last year, barely one month before the incident.
Mr Tan had employed Minah to look after Madam Tay, who had difficulty walking, and needed a walking stick, as well as assistance to move around.
Minah got along well with the elderly couple, apart from one instance when she shouted at Mr Tan when he asked her not to waste water.
On the day of the incident (Feb 13), Mr Tan left the flat for a medical appointment.
Prior to that, he had fed Madam Tay her lunch, massaged and bathed her, before helping her back to her rattan chair in the living room.
Mr Tan said that he did not sense anything askew about Minah.
Minah said that while she was having her lunch in the kitchen, Madam Tay called for her.
She then went over to Madam Tay, who did not respond.
Minah resumed eating, and Madam Tay called for her again.
This time, she scolded Minah for using her phone while eating, which caused her to take a long time.
Angered, Minah raised her voice and rebuked her, before continuing to eat.
After a while, Madam Tay called for Minah again, and chastised her again for taking such a long time to eat.
The two ended up in a heated argument, with Minah shouting across the living room from the kitchen.
According to Lianhe Wanbao, when Madam Tay called for Minah the fourth time, the maid took a kitchen knife with a 22cm-long blade and walked towards Madam Tay to stop her from talking.
However, Madam Tay continued complaining about Minah and told the maid that she was not afraid of her.
Minah held the blade near Madam Tay’s throat, and the elderly woman attempted to push it away, only for the maid to thrust it into her neck, leaving her gasping for air.
Minah then washed Madam Tay’s blood off her fingernails and proceeded to call Madam Tay’s daughter.
A neighbour heard a female voice crying and saw Minah pacing about in the living room, uttering "tolong tolong”, which translates into a plea for help.
He then called the police when he spotted Madam Tay who had a knife lodged in her throat.
Autopsy reports found that Madam Tay had bled to death from the single stab wound.
The wound inflicted was so deep that it penetrated the apex of her left lung.
Minah’s lawyer, Mr Nasser Ismail had asked for a jail term of 12 to 15 years, saying that his client was remorseful and would like to apologise to Madam Tay’s family.