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One of Singapore's worst maid abuse cases: Woman gets 14 years' jail for joining daughter in torturing Myanmar maid to death

One of Singapore's worst maid abuse cases: Woman gets 14 years' jail for joining daughter in torturing Myanmar maid to death
Prema S. Naraynasamy (left) pleaded guilty to 47 charges of voluntarily causing hurt to domestic helper Piang Ngaih Don.
PHOTO: The Straits Times

SINGAPORE — The woman who joined her daughter in torturing a maid from Myanmar to death was sentenced to 14 years' jail on Monday (Jan 9).

Prema S. Naraynasamy, 64, who was present in court, had no reaction and looked down at the ground when Principal District Judge Toh Han Li issued his sentence.

Judge Toh said Prema's abuse of Piang Ngaih Don, 24, took place over 15 distinct days. She used either her bare hands or various items to assault the maid during that time.

"The deceased is no longer with us to speak of her suffering but footage from the CCTV (closed-circuit television) showed the shocking picture of the abuse and how emaciated and weak she was before her passing," said the judge.

After the sentence was meted out, Prema requested to make a phone call home. Her sentence will be backdated to her date of arrest on July 26, 2016.

In his submissions, Deputy Public Prosecutor Senthilkumaran Sabapathy noted the shocking and heinous nature of the crime and said this was one of Singapore's worst maid abuse cases.

He said there was an exceptionally high level of culpability on Prema's part and that the abuse involved a high degree of physical and psychological harm.

"The deceased was dragged and thrown around the house like a rag doll... Many of us would not even treat inanimate objects in such a manner. Her life was nothing short of a living nightmare and this was in no small part due to Prema's actions," said the DPP.

Between October 2015 and her death in July 2016, Piang Ngaih Don was physically assaulted almost daily by Prema and her daughter Gaiyathiri Murugayan, 41. She was deprived of food and rest, and made to shower and relieve herself with the toilet door open.

Prema had earlier pleaded guilty to 47 charges of voluntarily causing hurt to the maid and one charge of attempting to voluntarily cause hurt.

She is claiming trial to one charge of causing evidence to disappear.

Prema had originally faced a murder charge, but was later given a discharge not amounting to an acquittal.

On numerous occasions, Prema assaulted the victim herself, or with Gaiyathiri, a housewife.

Gaiyathiri, the former wife of a police officer, was sentenced on June 22, 2021, to 30 years in prison — the longest jail term meted out here in a maid abuse case.

Between June and July 2016, footage from cameras installed in their three-bedroom flat in Bishan showed Prema kicking and punching the victim and pulling her up from the ground by her hair and shaking her head violently.

Prema also used objects like a bamboo pole and a chopping board to hit Piang Ngaih Don.

In the last 12 days of her life, she was tied to the window grille at night while she slept on the floor in the same room as Prema, who slept on the bed.

Seeking 10 years' jail for his client, defence lawyer Rai Satish of Kalidass Law Corporation said Prema abused the maid because she was frustrated due to her daughter's complaints about the victim.

"The accused is painted to be this vile and wicked person, but this is an unfair characterisation. There were moments of frustration that manifested in physical abuse on Prema's part, but there were also times when she offered her food," he said.


Satish added that his client is a loving grandmother, and that a long and crushing sentence would deprive her of opportunities to spend time with her grandchildren.

Piang Ngaih Don weighed 39kg when she started working for the family on May 28, 2015, and was a mere 24kg when she died on July 26, 2016, after another assault.

The autopsy found that the maid died from a brain injury following severe blunt trauma to the neck.

Gaiyathiri had admitted in February 2021 to starving, torturing and killing the maid.

In total, Gaiyathiri pleaded guilty to 28 charges and another 87 charges were taken into consideration for sentencing.

High Court judge See Kee Oon described it as among the worst cases of culpable homicide during Gaiyathiri's sentencing in 2021, noting that Piang Ngaih Don endured agonising physical and psychological harm for a long time before she died.

Gaiyathiri's former husband, Kevin Chelvam, 43, has been suspended from service since 2016, and faces multiple charges in relation to the abuse of Piang Ngaih Don.

His case is still pending before the courts. Their divorce was finalised in 2020.

ALSO READ: Woman who tortured maid to death claims victim's family forgave her; court dismisses her request to disclose documents

This article was first published in The Straits Times. Permission required for reproduction.

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