SINGAPORE — A Burmese domestic helper accused of murdering her employer's elderly mother-in-law told police that the 70-year-old woman had physically abused her, scalding her with a pan and hitting her with a variety of instruments or her bare hands.
Zin Mar Nwe claimed trial on Monday (9 November) to one count of murdering the elderly woman by inflicting multiple stab wounds with a knife on 25 June 2018, at a flat in the northwest of Singapore. She is said to have intended to cause bodily injuries which were sufficient in the ordinary course of nature to cause death.
The victim and the incident location cannot be identified due to a gag order imposed by the court.
The prosecution said it would lead evidence from 63 witnesses to prove the charge against Zin Mar Nwe.
The defence will likely submit a psychiatric report which states that she had suffered from mixed anxiety, depressive reaction or adjustment disorder with mixed anxiety and depressed mood, which substantially impaired her mental responsibility.
According to court documents, while Zin Mar Nwe's passport reflects her age as 23 at the time of the incident, she revealed during investigations that she was actually 17 years old, and had been instructed by her agent to declare her age as 23.
A bone-age test conducted by Tan Tock Seng Hospital then confirmed that the bone-age of the accused was “most likely 17 years”. Yahoo News Singapore has reached out to the Attorney-General's Chambers (AGC) with queries as to why Zin Mar Nwe is not being tried as a minor.
Facts of the case
Zin Mar Nwe began working for the victim’s family on 10 May 2018. This comprised her male employer, his wife, and their two teenage daughters.
Her responsibilities were to do the household chores, laundry and cooking. She woke at around 5.30am and went to bed at about 11pm. She told police that she had no complaints about the family, or her working conditions.
The victim arrived from India on 26 May to stay with the family for a month.
On 25 June, at about 4.30am, Zin Mar Nwe woke up to prepare her employer’s breakfast. The employer, his wife and one of their daughters left the house at about 7am and the helper went to clean up before taking a nap.
After the other daughter left home for school, she was left alone with the elderly woman. According to the helper, the victim became upset with her and said “tomorrow, you go agent”.
Hearing this, the maid felt angry. She grabbed a knife with her right hand and stabbed her repeatedly until the victim stopped moving. While the victim tried to push her back, she was unable to do so.
Fled the scene of the crime
According to the prosecution, after the victim became still, the maid ransacked the master bedroom, breaking a lock to a cupboard to retrieve her belongings in a cupboard. She could not find her passport.
She washed the knife she used to stab the victim and left it in the kitchen. Zin Mar Nwe then changed into a dress, took some money and an EZ-link card before leaving the unit at about 12.17pm.
She went to her maid agency, which was located nearby, and requested her passport, but left when she heard that the staff wanted to call her employers.
Various CCTV cameras then captured Zin Mar Nwe’s movements. She was seen travelling to Jurong, then to West Coast Highway, then taking a bus to Bukit Merah Bus Interchange where she alighted and proceeded to buy water. She continued taking buses and headed to Bukit Panjang Bus Interchange before she boards a taxi.
She took a taxi back to the maid agency at about 5.30pm and was arrested there at 5.55pm after staff alerted the police. The taxi driver found a bag of cash containing $114 on the rear passenger seat and tried to return the bag to Zin Mar Nwe. Four notes were found stained with the maid’s blood.
The victim’s body was later discovered by her daughter. Paramedics who arrived at about 3.14pm pronounced the victim dead around 15 minutes later.
An autopsy showed that her death was caused by acute haemorrhage resulting from multiple stab wounds, three of which had transected her right internal jugular vein, perforating the ascending thoracic aorta and perforated the heart. Three other wounds which had penetrated or incised her lungs could have also contributed to her death.
Did not confide in others about alleged abuse
An investigation officer (IO) took the stand as the first prosecution witness on Tuesday, testifying to the statements taken from Zin Mar Nwe after she was arrested.
The IO testified that Zin Mar Nwe had claimed the household members generally treated her very well, and she had no complaint against them. However, she alleged that the victim had on various occasions, without the knowledge of other family members, instructed her to perform various tasks and also scalded her with a heated pan.
There were also occasions when the victim hit her on her head or her body using various crockeries or her bare hand, said the IO. The maid added that the victim had kicked her on the chest once when Zin Mar Nwe was cutting the elderly woman’s toenails.
Zin Mar Nwe’s lawyer Christopher Bridges, who is representing her under the Legal Assistance Scheme for Capital Offences, then cross-examined the IO to ask about her alleged abuse and her state of mind.
The IO told the court that Zin Mar Nwe said she had not confided in anyone about the abuse or jotted it down in her diary. She claimed that she only told the police on the day she stabbed the victim.
She added that she did not confide in anyone about the abuse as she was scared of the victim and did not want to cause any trouble between the victim and her daughter.
She added that she did not have a phone to contact others, and that she did not want to write in her diary anymore. Her diary however, showed that she missed her family members and had difficulties adapting to her life in Singapore. The maid had also allegedly been in debt at that point in time.
The trial continues on Tuesday afternoon. If convicted of murder, Zin Mar Nwe faces the death penalty or life imprisonment.
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