Woman serving 14-year jail sentence for abusing Myanmarese maid to death gets 3 more years

Jean Iau
The Straits Times
June 26, 2023

A woman who told her son-in-law to remove surveillance footage of her and her daughter abusing their maid to death was given three more years’ jail on Monday.

Prema S. Naraynasamy, 64, had pleaded guilty on June 15 to one charge of instigating Kevin Chelvam, 44, a police officer, to cause evidence of the offences in their Bishan flat to disappear.

This brings her total jail term to 17 years.

Appearing in court via video link, a now-petite Prema, who wore a mask and has shoulder-length hair, lowered her head as the sentence was read out to her.

She had been serving a 14-year jail sentence after pleading guilty to 47 charges of voluntarily causing hurt to Myanmar national Piang Ngaih Don, 24, and one charge of attempting to voluntarily cause hurt to the domestic worker.

Principal District Judge Jill Tan said on Monday that given the nature of the abuse Prema had inflicted on Ms Piang Ngaih Don and her attempt to cause the evidence to disappear, a total sentence of 17 years would not be crushing and appropriately reflect the heinousness of Prema’s crimes.

The court heard earlier that Prema knew that surveillance cameras in the flat would have captured the abuse and told Chelvam to dismantle and disconnect the recorder from the camera and to hand the device to her.

Prema’s daughter-in-law, Isabella, arrived at the flat later that day, and Prema hid the recorder in Isabella’s bag.

While Isabella was unaware of the significance of the recorder, Prema told her to “do something with it”. Isabella then passed the recorder to her husband, who gave it to a friend.

Isabella and her husband handed the footage to the police when investigators turned up at their home.

Ms Piang Ngaih Don, who had a three-year-old son, was working outside Myanmar for the first time and was not allowed to have a mobile phone or have any day off.

She died of a brain injury with severe blunt trauma to her neck on July 26, 2016, after 14 months of repeated abuse. It was one of Singapore’s worst cases of maid abuse.

She was starved and lost 15kg in her 14 months of employment with the family and weighed only 24kg when she died.

Ms Piang Ngaih Don was also tied to a window grille at night in the days before her death and assaulted if she tried to rummage the dustbin for food.

Prema had assaulted the victim on July 25, 2016, with her daughter and co-accused, Gaiyathiri Murugayan, 43. Gaiyathiri was sentenced on June 22, 2021, to 30 years in prison – the longest jail term meted out in a maid abuse case in Singapore.

After refusing the maid her dinner, Gaiyathiri tied the victim’s wrist to a window grille and kicked her in the stomach before leaving her on the floor.

Even when the victim was unresponsive, the mother-daughter duo refused to call for an ambulance or the police.

They called for a doctor to make a house call.

When the doctor arrived and realised that Ms Piang Ngaih Don was dead, she called for an ambulance. Paramedics pronounced the maid dead.

An autopsy report found a total of 31 recent scars and 47 external injuries all over the maid’s body.

Surveillance footage showed Gaiyathiri pouring cold water on her domestic helper, and slapping, pushing, punching, kicking and stomping on her.

She was also seen hitting the maid with objects, pulling her by the hair and shaking her violently, burning her with a heated iron and choking her.

The maid’s meals often comprised sliced bread soaked in water, cold food straight from the refrigerator or some rice at night.

She was also made to shower with the toilet door open.

Prema, who often stayed at the flat, was also seen in the footage and started abusing Ms Piang Ngaih Don no later than May 2016.

Seeking an additional three years’ jail for Prema to run consecutively from her current 14-year jail term, Deputy Public Prosecutor Sean Teh on June 15 argued that this was one of the most horrific abuse cases of a domestic helper that resulted in her death.

Defence lawyer Rai Satish had sought between 18 and 24 months’ jail for his client, arguing that the term should run concurrently with her current sentence.

The judge agreed with the prosecution that the sentence for the latest charge should run consecutively.

She noted that several hours had passed between the time Prema and Gaiyathiri had tried to revive Ms Piang Ngaih Don and Prema instructing Chelvam to remove the closed-circuit television (CCTV) evidence.

In response to the defence’s argument that Prema was acting out of her motherly instinct, the judge said: “I cannot ignore the fact that your actions were also self-serving.”

Chelvam’s case is pending, and he is set to claim trial in July. He and Gaiyathiri divorced in 2020.

Chelvam has been suspended from the police force since August 2016, days after the maid died.

The Straits Times

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