SINGAPORE - A foreign domestic worker leapt to her death from the window of a condominium unit after hitting her employer on the head with a hammer, a coroner's court heard.
Indian national Palwinder Kaur, 25, had been working for Ms Divya Bhardwaj, 38, and her husband, Mr Shekhrendhu Bhardwaj, 44, at the Aquarius by the Park in Bedok Reservoir Road at the time of her death on Jan 19 this year.
In December last year - about a month into her employment - Ms Divya found $270 missing and suspected the maid of stealing her money.
A few days later - on Dec 21 - her husband found out that the maid had made international calls to India using his elder son's mobile phone. Later that day, Palwinder Kaur also confessed to having stolen the money.
Ms Divya decided to send her back to the maid agency the next day.
However, the couple were persuaded to take her back and give her a second chance as she was "very remorseful''. They fetched her from the agency back to their condominium on Jan 5.
But she abused their trust again and assaulted Ms Divya with a hammer on Jan 19.
The day before, Mr Bhardwaj discovered an additional mobile phone bill showing 17 calls to India. He confronted the domestic helper, who pleaded with him not to tell the maid agent about it. Mr Bhardwaj left for Surabaya, Indonesia, on a business trip later that day.
At around 7.45am the next day, Ms Divya was working on her laptop when Palwinder Kaur told her not to tell the maid agent about the additional phone bill.
Ms Divya said she would discuss the matter when her husband returned on Jan 24. The maid answered yes three times and went to the kitchen.
Suddenly, Ms Divya felt a hard blow on her head from behind. She also heard the maid say in an aggressive tone, "Will you inform the agent? Will you inform my family? I will teach you'."
Ms Divya fell after she was hit. Palwinder Kaur used her hand to cover the mouth and nose of Ms Divya in an apparent attempt to suppress her breathing. Ms Divya struggled and tried to push the hand away. She saw the hammer nearby and shouted for help.
A few minutes later, her neighbour came down and Ms Divya, who was covered with blood all over her face, told him to call the police. She said the maid was trying to kill her. The neighbour later overheard the security guard saying that the maid had jumped down.
Palwinder Kaur was pronounced dead by a paramedic at 8.36am.
In his findings on Thursday (Oct 22), State Coroner Marvin Bay said all the evidence pointed to her fall from height to be a deliberate act on Ms Palwinder's part.
"She appeared to have been irrationally troubled by the revelation of her additional hand phone bills, having pleaded with Mr Shekhrendhu and Ms Divya on separate occasions not to inform her agent Madam Narinderit about the additional hand phone bills. She had been apparently aggrieved that Ms Divya signalled that she could not accede to this request," he said.
He said the sheer savagery of her attack appeared to be wildly disproportionate with any conceivable grievance that she might have held against her employer.
"This would point to Ms Palwinder Kaur being likely to be in a profoundly disturbed state of mind, when she attacked Ms Divya with the hammer and made an attempt to suffocate her, while she was down. While waiting for the police to arrive, Ms Palwinder had probably realised that her desperate strategy to stage an assault from Ms Divya by inflicting herself with head injuries, would convince no one. She appears at this juncture to have chosen to end her life, by causing herself to fall from her window at the 14th floor of the block,'' he said before ruling her death to be an act of suicide.