SINGAPORE — A maid who robbed her employer with a knife had earlier disabled a CCTV camera in their residence.
The maid from Myanmar, 36, then brutally assaulted the 61-year-old victim with a laptop until it broke. She tied the victim with pieces of cloth before robbing her of more than $37,000 in valuables.
Before the maid left to buy her plane ticket home, she was heard remarking that it was “easy” to rob someone in Singapore. The maid was arrested before she could board her flight.
The maid pleaded guilty on Thursday (24 February) to one count of causing grievous hurt while committing robbery armed with a deadly weapon, with one count of cheating by personation considered for her sentencing.
Ahead of the hearing, the prosecution sought a gag order to be imposed on the victim’s identity. The victim had said she was traumatised by the incident and was trying to forget the case. The court granted the gag order.
The maid stayed with the victim, the victim’s 83-year-old mother, who was mostly bedridden, and the victim’s niece, since she started working for them in November 2019. Her responsibilities included caring for the victim’s mother, in addition to household chores.
At the time, the victim had three CCTV cameras around her house: in the victim’s room, outside her mother’s bedroom, and in the kitchen.
On 17 January 2020, the CCTV camera in the victim’s bedroom had been switched off by the victim, who was sleeping in her room. The maid had switched off the CCTV outside the victim’s mother’s bedroom, and the wires of the CCTV in the kitchen were cut.
The victim then woke up in the morning to the sensation of something sharp on her neck. She realised the maid was beside her bed. The maid demanded for the victim’s valuables, warned her not to do anything “stupid” and threatened to kill her.
A struggle ensued as the victim tried to remove the sharp object from her neck and she later realised it was a kitchen knife. The victim sustained multiple cuts on her hands from trying to grab the knife.
The maid managed to overpower her employer. She sat on the victim’s back and used the latter’s laptop to hit her on the head until it broke. The victim covered her head with her hands.
The maid then tied the victim’s limbs with pieces of cloth before retrieving her key from a bag, at the victim’s instruction. She opened a drawer with the key and emptied it of valuables while the victim lay on the ground bleeding and terrified.
The maid took the victim’s diamond ring from her finger and cut the necklace around her neck to remove her diamond pendant. In total, the maid took valuables worth $37,274.15.
The maid then asked the victim how to go to the airport, and the victim told her to take the MRT. Before she left, the maid was heard remarking how easy it was to rob someone in Singapore as the neighbours were unaware. She washed up and left while the victim was still tied up.
After the maid’s departure, the victim undid the cloth then moved a table against the bedroom door, in fear that the maid would return. She later crawled out to the living room to dial for help, and locked the main door to prevent the maid’s return.
Meanwhile, the maid went to buy a plane ticket to return home at City Hall. She then took a cab to Changi Airport, paying the fare with the victim’s credit card. She was arrested before she could board her flight.
Police officers who attended to the victim saw her bleeding from her head and found the knife with the victim’s blood. The victim was found with lacerations on her scalp and hands, and a fracture in her left little finger which has not healed properly.
The victim reported that she was traumatised and had problems sleeping in her own home for fear of being stabbed.
Deputy Public Prosecutor Jane Lim urged the court to jail the maid for between seven and eight years, with an additional six months in lieu of 12 strokes of the cane.
“Crimes of this nature and their… patterns are rarely associated with in Singapore especially given the number of foreign domestic workers woking in Singapore. Such an offence violates every sense of safety and security that we hold dear,” said the DPP
Yvonne Mak, the maid’s lawyer, sought a jail term of six years. Mak said that her client was a single mother who came to Singapore to provide a better life for her family.
“Unfortunately during this time she had difficulties adjusting to working in Singapore as a domestic helper and perceived she had been treated with contempt by her employer and her family,” said Mak. These included gestures that the maid felt were signs of contempt in Myanmar’s culture.
The maid complained that she had to work long hours and do physically strenuous tasks without being able to take days off. The maid was also unhappy with the food she had to eat. She had no friends or support in Singapore and spoke little English, leaving her feeling that she was trapped in her situation.
The maid had wanted to return home after two months of working but was refused by her employer, who demanded that the maid compensate her for the cost of bringing her over.
“Her salary was around $300 and her employer had told her she will have to reimburse a sum of $5,000 which would have been impossible for her to raise. She felt that she had no choice but to serve two years of contract and the wait was intolerable for her given she was so unhappy,” said Mak.
The maid will be sentenced on 21 March.
The offence of robbery with grievous hurt and a deadly weapon carries between five and 20 years’ jail, with at least 12 strokes of the cane. The maid cannot be caned as she is a woman.
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