Maid on trial for killing employer's mum-in-law claims she was abused

A maid who was allegedly abused by her employer's mother-in-law is said to have grabbed a knife from the kitchen and stabbed the woman 26 times, thereby killing her.

Zin Mar Nwe, 26, a Myanmar national, allegedly murdered the 70-year-old woman around noon on June 25, 2018.

She later loitered in the west of Singapore before going back to the maid agency she was from and was arrested. She was charged with murder two days later.

The trial for the murder began yesterday, with investigating officer Alvin Phua taking the stand as the first witness.

Zin Mar Nwe began working for the family on May 10, 2018.

Her employer's mother-in-law arrived from India on May 26 that year for a month-long stay with the family. The deceased, the family members and incident location cannot be identified due to a gag order.

The maid and the woman were alone in the flat at about 11.30am on June 25, 2018.

At the time, the elderly woman was lying on the sofa in the living room watching television.

Zin Mar Nwe allegedly grabbed a knife from the kitchen and stabbed the woman multiple times, killing her.

She allegedly washed the knife in the kitchen and left it there before leaving the unit with some cash that had been placed on top of a microwave oven in the kitchen.

Security camera footage showed she went to the maid agency in Choa Chu Kang at about 12.40pm and tried to get her passport. But she left after the staff said they were going to call her employer.

The maid went around Singapore, including Jurong East and Bukit Merah, before taking a taxi back to the maid agency at around 5.30pm. She was arrested there after the staff alerted the police to her return.

Yesterday, Superintendent Phua told the court that Zin Mar Nwe had claimed she was abused by the victim, who allegedly hit her on her back and head, sometimes using crockery.

She also recounted an incident to the police when the victim had allegedly kicked her in the chest.

The purported trigger point was when the victim told the maid that she would be sent back to the agent. Zin Mar Nwe had told the police she felt angry and her mind went blank as she grabbed the knife.

The court was also told the maid was in debt of about $3,300 after getting employed through the agency.

But Supt Phua said that while it was a vicious and violent attack, money did not appear to be the motive as the victim's valuables and the jewellery she was wearing were found at the scene.

The second witness to take the stand yesterday was then Inspector Leong Lim Chee, who left the Singapore Police Force in September 2018. He had spoken to the maid after she was arrested, and described her as being timid but calm.

The trial will continue today with six witnesses expected to take the stand.

Deputy Public Prosecutors Kumaresan Gohulabalan and Sean Teh said they would lead evidence from 63 witnesses to prove the single charge of murder against the accused.

Zin Mar Nwe is represented by Mr Christopher Bridges, Ms Vickie Tan and Mr Stephen Wong. The defence lawyers are representing the accused under the Legal Assistance Scheme for Capital Offences.

If convicted of murder, the maid faces the death penalty or life imprisonment.

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on November 10, 2021, with the headline 'Maid on trial for killing employer's mum-in-law claims she was abused'. Subscribe