PUTRAJAYA - A couple whom the prosecution said starved, abused, neglected and denied their Cambodian maid medical care which eventually led to her death were sentenced to death by the Court of Appeal Friday.
Deputy Public Prosecutor Lailawati Ali had argued that the trial judge was wrong to reduce the charge from murder to manslaughter against the couple.
Hardware store owner Soh Chew Tong, 46, and his wife Chin Chui Ling, 43, were found guilty of manslaughter by the Penang High Court judge Justice Zamani Abdul Rahim in May 2013 and sentenced to 24 years in jail each.
The maid, Mey Sichan, 24, only weighed 26.1kg when she was rescued after seven months working at their house.
The appellate court also dismissed the couple's appeal over their conviction for manslaughter.
Upon hearing the verdict, Chin, who appeared taken aback, broke down while hugging her husband in the dock.
She wept uncontrollably until she slowly sat down while her husband stood expressionless. Their family members also rushed to console them.
The couple's counsel Datuk K.Kumaraendran then tapped Soh's shoulder telling him not to worry as they would appeal against the decision.
Court of Appeal judge Justice Tengku Maimun Tuan Mat, chaired the three-man panel in deciding the cross-appeal.
Justice Zakaria Sam, who read the ruling, said the sentence of manslaughter was set aside and substituted with murder under Section 302 of the Penal Code.
"The warrant of committal to be issued," said Justice Zakaria. The three-member panel included Justice Ahmadi Asnawi.
Justice Zamani Abdul Rahim had in May 2013 sentenced the couple to 24 years in jail each for manslaughter of Cambodian maid Mey Sichan, 24.
The maid only weighed 26.1kg when she was rescued after seven months working at their house.
The accused caused the death of Mey at their home in Taman Asas Murni, Jalan Bukit Minyak in Bukit Mertajam, between Jan 1 and April 1, 2012.
Mey had started to work at the couple's house on July 22, 2011 after Fomema doctor Dr K.Ramasamy had certified the maid fit during an examination in September 2011.
DPP Lailawati said that Mey had informed the maid employment agency's representative that she was not given enough food during her employment.
She said consultant forensic pathologist Datuk Dr Zahari Noor who conducted a post-mortem on Mey found that there were 29 old and fresh injuries all over the maid's body.
She said the pathologist had stated the cause of death as acute peritonitis due to perforated gastric ulcer associated with abuses and neglect.
The couple's lawyer Datuk Ghazi Ishak had argued that the trial judge had erred in law in finding there was common intention on the part of his clients and thus convict them for manslaughter.
Ghazi had argued that Soh should be freed as he was never a party to the offence, adding that Soh was mostly occupied with breeding Arowana fish at Bukit Merah and rarely at home.
Kumaraendran had argued that the trial judge had considered evidence by the agency's representative which was highly prejudicial to his clients.
Alternatively, Kumaraendran had argued that the charge against Chin should be amended to "negligently as to have caused the maid's death."
The trial judge had amended the original murder charge at the close of the prosecution's case and ordered the couple to enter their defence over manslaughter charge.
The couple managed to get a stay of execution of the jail term pending disposal of this appeal.