Maid changes guilty plea over killing

A domestic worker, who admitted to a reduced murder charge in April for killing her employer, has had a change of heart and now wants to rely on psychiatric evidence in the hope of avoiding life imprisonment.

Yesterday, the High Court allowed an application by Daryati, 28, for her murder conviction to be set aside, after her lawyer told the court that she "wishes to be heard on a defence of diminished responsibility".

The case will now be scheduled for the trial to resume where it left off.

If the court accepts that Daryati was suffering from a mental condition that diminished her responsibility for the killing, she will be facing life imprisonment or jail of up to 20 years for culpable homicide.

The contents of the defence psychiatric report have yet to be revealed in open court.

Daryati's lawyer, Mr Mohamed Muzammil Mohamed, later told The Straits Times that his client felt that "life imprisonment is on the heavy side".

The Indonesian does not dispute that she had repeatedly slashed and stabbed Madam Seow Kim Choo at her Telok Kurau house on June 7, 2016.

The attack left the 59-year-old victim with more than 90 knife wounds.

Daryati was originally tried for murder under Section 300(a) of the Penal Code, which carries the mandatory death penalty.

The trial was heard for 17 days between April 23 last year and March 4 this year, and the prosecution has yet to close its case.

On April 6, the prosecution reduced the charge to murder under Section 300(c), which carries life imprisonment or the death sentence.


However, prosecutors told the court that they would not be seeking the death penalty.

The case was adjourned for Mr Muzammil to prepare a mitigation plea.

The lawyer told ST that his client gave instructions to mount a diminished responsibility defence while he was preparing her mitigation plea.


Daryati faces a second charge of attempting to murder Madam Seow's husband, Mr Ong Thiam Soon, then 57. This charge has been stood down for now.

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on September 22, 2020, with the headline 'Maid changes guilty plea over killing'. Print Edition | Subscribe