Trial begins for maid accused of brutally murdering employer in Telok Kurau home

·Senior Reporter
Daryati, who goes by one name, mercilessly and relentlessly stabbed 59-year-old Seow Kim Choo on her neck and head in a toilet at her Telok Kurau home on the night of 7 June 2016. (PHOTO: Getty Images)
Daryati, who goes by one name, mercilessly and relentlessly stabbed 59-year-old Seow Kim Choo on her neck and head in a toilet at her Telok Kurau home on the night of 7 June 2016. (PHOTO: Getty Images)

SINGAPORE — Homesick and longing for her lover after two months working in Singapore, a maid from Indonesia hatched a ruthless plot to kill her employer and steal money before fleeing back to her home country, a court heard.

Daryati, who goes by one name, mercilessly and relentlessly stabbed 59-year-old Seow Kim Choo on her neck and head in a toilet at her Telok Kurau home on the night of 7 June 2016.

So forceful were Daryati’s blows that Seow had multiple broken bones in her skull. She was found dead at the scene with 78 cut and stab wounds on the head and neck, among other injuries.

When Seow’s husband Ong Thiam Soon, who was then 57, went to her aid after hearing her shout for help, he too was attacked, suffering two stab wounds to the neck. He survived the attack.

That was the case laid out by prosecutors at the High Court on Tuesday (23 April), the first day of Daryati’s trial.

The maid, who is now aged 26, claimed trial to one charge of murder with intention, which carries the mandatory death penalty. She faces another charge, which will be dealt with at a later stage, of aggravated attempted murder, which is punishable with up to 20 years’ jail or life imprisonment, along with a fine.

Plotted to kill employer a month before

Daryati was employed by Seow on 13 April 2016 and treated kindly by her family members, according to the prosecution.

Also living in Seow’s three-storey semi-detached house in Lorong H Telok Kurau was her husband Ong, their two adults sons, a daughter-in-law, two grandchildren, and another maid, Don Hayati, who had been employed earlier that year to look after the grandchildren.

But Daryati missed home and her lover who was working in Hong Kong. However, she did not have enough money to return to Indonesia and Seow kept her passport in a locked safe.

Seow also held the keys to a drawer in the first floor home office, where Daryati believed money was stashed. And the maid knew that Seow kept her keys in her pants pocket.

As early as 12 May 2016, Daryati schemed to kill Seow, take back her passport, steal money and return to Indonesia, the court heard.

She wrote in her diary that day, “I must carry out this plan quickly. I have to be brave even though life is at stake. I am ready to face all risks / consequences, whatever the risk, I must be ready to accept it. I hope that this plan succeeds and runs smoothly. / My employer’s family is my target / DEATH!!!”

Hid weapons around house

Around mid-May 2016, Daryati informed Don Hayati about her plan of stealing money from their employer and fleeing back home, the prosecution told the court.

Daryati told Don Hayati to distract Ong on the first floor by talking to him, before switching off the CCTV and electricity supply in the home. With Ong distracted and trying to restart the power supply, the maids would steal money from the home office and escape.

But Daryati did not tell Don Hayati about her plan to kill Seow or when she wanted to execute the plan. Daryati only told Don Hayati that she would use a code word, “Jaga Bawah”, when the time came, the court heard.

In another diary entry on 2 June 2016, Daryati drew a map of the house, and plotted the path that she would take to get her passport and escape.

Before the murder on 7 June 2016, Daryati hid weapons on the second floor of the house – she kept a kukri in the walk-in wardrobe area of the master bedroom, a hammer next to the study table in another bedroom, and a short knife in a basket under the sink of the master bedroom toilet.

The knives were meant to be used to kill Seow, while the hammer was to be used to hit her employer’s daughter-in-law if she came down from the third floor of the house.

Waited till employer was alone

At about 6pm on the fateful day, Seow’s brother came by with cash, and Don Hayati told Daryati that he was counting cash in the home office. Daryati walked past the office to verify this.

Daryati then waited till Seow’s daughter-in-law and two grandchildren had gone to the third floor of the house.

At about 8pm, Seow’s brother and her two sons also left.

Shortly after, Daryati took another knife from the storeroom, hid it in her pants, and walked up to the master bedroom holding a pair of ironed pants for Seow.

While on her way up, Daryati uttered to Don Hayati the code word “Jaga Bawah”, so that she would be ready to execute the plan.

At the walk-in wardrobe of the master bedroom, Daryati handed Seow her ironed pants. The maid then took out the knife and pointed it at her employer’s neck, and demanded her passport.

When Seow shouted, Daryati dragged her into the toilet and closed the door. Daryati then slashed and stabbed Seow repeatedly till she collapsed on the floor.

Daryati then retrieved the short knife she had hidden under the sink and squatted beside Seow to make sure that she was dead. When the maid saw Seow trying to pull herself up, she viciously stabbed her employer repeatedly on the neck until she lay motionless.

Attacked employer’s husband twice

At around this time, Seow’s husband Ong entered the master bedroom and called his wife’s name several times but did not get a response. Worried, he used a screwdriver to open the toilet door which had been locked.

When the door opened, Daryati attacked Ong, stabbing him on the neck with the knife she had first used to attack Seow.

Ong managed to disarm Daryati, pushed her to the ground and threw the knife away. He then went to check on his wife.

But Daryati went to retrieve the same knife and stabbed Ong on the neck again. Eventually, Ong managed to restrain Daryati.

Accused not of unsound mind

Paramedics pronounced Seow dead at the scene at just past 9pm.

Besides the 78 cuts and stab wounds on her head and neck, and multiple broken bones in her skull, there was also a stab wound on her abdomen and 19 cuts and stab wounds on her upper left hand.

A forensic pathologist found that she died from massive bleeding.

A government psychiatrist reported that Daryati was suffering from adjustment disorder, but this did not amount to a major mental disorder and she was not of unsound mind at the time of the offence.

The mental illness was unlikely to have caused a substantial impairment of her judgment, ability to think rationally or control her impulses at the time of the offence, according to prosecutors.

The case is being prosecuted by Deputy Public Prosecutors Wong Kok Weng, Tan Zhongshan, Sarah Ong, Teo Lu Jia and Shivani Retnam before Justice Valerie Thean. Daryati is being represented by Muzammil Mohd, Sudha Nair and Dew Wong.

Accused told cop victim assaulted her

On Tuesday, two policemen and a paramedic testified, while the statements of 42 other witnesses – mostly first responders – were admitted to the court without them having to testify.

Senior Station Inspector Roslan Ahmat, the first police officer to arrive at the crime scene, told the court that he saw Daryati with a bloodied face with her hands restrained with cable ties.

Daryati told Roslan that she had been assaulted by her employer, who was unhappy over the way she had ironed clothes. She also claimed that the employer had pushed her head against the sink.

The trial resumes in mid-August with the remaining 21 prosecution witnesses, including Ong, the forensic pathologist and the government psychiatrist testifying in court and being cross-examined.

Daryati’s lawyers will meanwhile call another psychiatrist and forensic pathologist during her defence.

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