'Homesick' maid on trial for murder of employer

Indonesian maid Daryati (left) hatched a ruthless plan to kill her employer at the three-storey Telok Kurau home as early as May 12, 2016, says Deputy Public Prosecutor Wong Kok Weng.
Indonesian maid Daryati hatched a ruthless plan to kill her employer at the three-storey Telok Kurau home as early as May 12, 2016, says Deputy Public Prosecutor Wong Kok Weng.ST FILE PHOTO
Madam Seow Kim Choo (above) died after she was left with 98 knife wounds, allegedly by Indonesian maid Daryati, who is facing the death penalty.
Madam Seow Kim Choo (above) died after she was left with 98 knife wounds, allegedly by Indonesian maid Daryati, who is facing the death penalty.ST PHOTO: DESMOND WEE

Longing for lover, she wanted to get passport, steal money to return home, says prosecution

A month after starting work for a family in Telok Kurau, an Indonesian maid became so homesick and filled with longing for her lover in Hong Kong, that she hatched a "ruthless plan" to kill her employer.

Daryati, 26, wanted to get her passport and to steal money so that she could return home, prosecutors told the High Court yesterday on the first day of her murder trial.

She is facing the death penalty for stabbing and slashing Madam Seow Kim Choo on June 7, 2016, leaving the 59-year-old woman with 98 knife wounds.

In opening its case against Daryati, the prosecution cited what she had written in her diary.

The translated entry read: "I must carry out this plan quickly. I have to be brave even though life is at stake. I am ready to face all risks/consequences, whatever the risk, I must be ready to accept it. I hope that this plan succeeds and runs smoothly.

"My employer's family is my target. DEATH!!!"

Deputy Public Prosecutor Wong Kok Weng said these words were, in effect, a confession of the "brutal and cold-blooded" killing which

Daryati would eventually perpetrate.

In the days before she stabbed Madam Seow, whom she later described to police as "a very nice person", Daryati hid weapons on the second floor, said the DPP. She hid a Kukri knife at the walk-in wardrobe of the master bedroom, a hammer next to a study table, and a short knife in a basket under the sink of the master bedroom toilet, said the DPP.

He said the prosecution will rely on Daryati's police statements in which she confessed to slitting Madam Seow's neck and stabbing her multiple times.

Madam Seow lived in the three-storey house with her husband, two adult sons, daughter-in-law and two grandchildren.

Daryati, whose name is made up of only one word, started working for the family on April 13, 2016.

Her passport was kept in a safe in the master bedroom, and only Madam Seow and her husband, Mr Ong Thiam Soon, had the keys.

Madam Seow also held the keys to a drawer on the first floor, where cash was kept.

The DPP said Daryati devised a plan to kill Madam Seow as early as May 12. Daryati roped in the family's other maid to help, but did not say the plan involved murder.

She told fellow Indonesian, Ms Don Hayati, 27, to turn off the closed-circuit TV and electricity supply, so that they could steal money and escape while Mr Ong, then 57, was trying to restart the power.

She also told Ms Don Hayati to alert her when Madam Seow's brother came to the house, having observed that he would bring large amounts of cash whenever he visited.

Daryati drew a map of the house, plotting the path she would take to get her passport and escape.

In the days before she stabbed Madam Seow, whom she later described to police as "a very nice person", Daryati hid weapons on the second floor, said the DPP.

 
 
 

She hid a Kukri knife at the walk-in wardrobe of the master bedroom, a hammer next to a study table, and a short knife in a basket under the sink of the master bedroom toilet, said the DPP.

On June 7, Daryati carried out the plan after Madam Seow's daughter-in-law and her two children had gone up to the third floor, and after Madam Seow's two sons and her brother had left the house, said the DPP.

Daryati went up to the master bedroom, saying "jaga bawah", or "guard downstairs", to Ms Don Hayati, who has not been charged over her involvement.

After handing Madam Seow a pair of trousers she had ironed, Daryati took out a knife and demanded her passport.

When Madam Seow shouted, Daryati dragged her employer to the toilet, closed the door and repeatedly slashed and stabbed her neck, head and face until the older woman collapsed on the floor.

Daryati then retrieved the knife she had hidden under the sink, squatted down and stabbed her employer in the neck until she was motionless, said the DPP.

By this time, Mr Ong was in the room and calling out for his wife. As there was no response, he used a screwdriver to open the door but was stabbed in the neck after the door opened.

He eventually restrained Daryati, tied her hands and took her out to the main gate, where three passers-by watched over her while he checked on Madam Seow.

She was later pronounced dead at the scene by paramedics.

An autopsy report stated that she died from multiple slash and stab wounds to the head and neck.

A psychiatric report said Daryati had adjustment disorder but this did not diminish her responsibility for her actions.

Daryati faces a second charge for the attempted murder of Mr Ong, but it has been stood down for now.

Her lawyer, Mr Mohamed Muzammil Mohamed, told reporters that he will be challenging the admissibility of her statements, and calling a forensic pathologist from Indonesia and a local psychiatrist to testify.

The trial resumes on Aug 13.

Correction note: In an earlier version of this story, we used a wrong photograph of the accused, Daryati. We are sorry for the error and apologise to the woman whose photo was used.

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on April 24, 2019, with the headline ''Homesick' maid on trial for murder of employer'. Print Edition | Subscribe