Myanmarese maid tolerated abuse but murdered boss' mum-in-law when threatened to be sent home

Selina Lum
The Straits Times
July 16, 2023

Her Myanmar passport said she was 23 years old – the minimum age to work as a domestic worker in Singapore.

Zin Mar Nwe was actually 17 when she arrived here on Jan 5, 2018.

Four months later, on May 10, she started working for her third household – a couple and their two teenage daughters.

Her latest employer, a financial controller identified by the court as Mr S, had hired her because his family’s maid for the past four years was returning home to the Philippines.

By her own accounts, Zin Mar Nwe had no complaints about her working conditions and had no issues interacting with Mr S’ family and her agents.

She woke up at about 5.30am and went to bed at about 11pm. She also made multiple phone calls to her relatives in Myanmar. Part of her $450 monthly salary went towards repaying her loan to the maid agency. 

She said she tried to be a good helper, although Mr S and his wife found her “not to be very driven” in doing her chores.

About two weeks after she started work, her employer’s mother-in-law arrived from India on May 26, 2018, to stay with the family for a month.

The 70-year-old woman and the maid had difficulty getting along.

The elderly woman began hitting the maid to get her attention or to reprimand her. Zin Mar Nwe said she was hit when she did not understand what the woman wanted her to do.

At the beginning, the elderly woman used her knuckles to knock the maid on her head and back two to three times a day on average. She later started using objects such as ladles.

The mother-in-law also started returning tit for tat on the many occasions the maid accidentally hurt her.

Once, while the maid was massaging her, the older woman slapped her because she found the massage painful.

On another occasion, the maid had turned on the stove wrongly, resulting in a sudden burst of flames that burned the older woman slightly. The mother-in-law retaliated by pulling the maid’s hand close to the flames.

Yet another time, the maid dropped a spice box cover on the elderly woman’s foot. In response, the woman picked up a hot pan and hit the maid with it.

Zin Mar Nwe felt unappreciated, but tolerated the abuse and did not tell anyone that she was being ill-treated.

On the morning of June 25, 2018, the two women were alone at home when the older woman became upset with the maid for causing an object to drop on her foot and for missing her instructions.

As the older woman lay down on the sofa to watch television, she declared that the maid would be going back to the agent tomorrow.

Zin Mar Nwe understood that because Mr S was already her third employer, this would result in her being sent back to her home country in debt.

Shaking with anger, she grabbed a knife and stabbed the elderly woman 26 times. After the woman stopped moving, the maid ransacked one of the bedrooms in the flat, broke the lock of a cupboard and retrieved her belongings.

She washed the knife and left it in the kitchen, then changed into a dress and took a bag belonging to her. She left the flat after taking some cash and an ez-link card that had been placed on top of the microwave oven.

She went to her maid agency in Choa Chu Kang to get her passport, but left when she heard that the staff were about to call her employer.

Over the next five hours, she wandered around Singapore by bus, by MRT and on foot.

She bought bottles of mineral water and ate at a hawker centre before she finally took a taxi back to the agency. She was arrested there after the staff alerted the police of her return.

After dropping her off, the cabby found a bag containing $114 in the back seat and tried to return it to her, but she denied that the bag was hers. Forensic tests later showed that some of the notes were stained with her blood.

After her arrest, Zin Mar Nwe initially denied killing the elderly woman. She pinned the blame on two men and even described the fictitious assailants in some detail.

On June 29, 2018, she admitted that she had stabbed the victim in anger after the woman threatened to send her back to the agent.

In May 18, 2023, following a trial that began in November 2021, Zin Mar Nwe was found guilty of murder for intentionally inflicting multiple fatal stab wounds on the victim.

She was sentenced to life imprisonment on July 4.

The Straits Times

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