Maid on trial for murdering employer's mother-in-law was 'normal' the day before

Myanmar national Zin Mar Nwe is accused of stabbing the 70-year-old 26 times at the family's flat on June 25, 2018. PHOTO: ST FILE

SINGAPORE - Things were normal with a domestic worker right up to a day before she stabbed her employer's mother-in-law to death, the High Court heard on Thursday (Jan 6) in an ongoing murder trial.

Myanmar national Zin Mar Nwe is accused of stabbing the 70-year-old 26 times at the family's flat on June 25, 2018. She faces the death penalty or life imprisonment if convicted of murder.

While her passport reflects her age as 23 at the time of the incident, investigations revealed that she was 17 and had been instructed by her agent to lie about her age.

She does not dispute stabbing the victim and is likely to rely on a psychiatric report to contend that her mental responsibility for her acts was diminished.

A police officer earlier testified that Zin Mar Nwe claimed that she was abused by the elderly woman, who was visiting from India.

On Thursday, her employer testified that the maid, who had worked for the family for more than a month by then, did not complain to him about being hit by his mother-in-law.

The financial controller said that a day before the alleged murder, his mother-in-law had made chapati for dinner and the maid was happy and smiling as she helped serve it at the dining table.

He added that his mother-in-law was "not the type of person who would get physical" and that she could not have hit the maid without another family member coming to know about it.

This was because his wife, a part-time teacher, and their two daughters were at home most of the time as it was then the mid-year school holidays.

The victim and her family members cannot be identified due to a gag order as one of the trial witnesses is below 18 years of age.

Zin Mar Nwe started working for the family on May 10, 2018. They were the third family she was working for after she came to Singapore on Jan 5, 2018, it emerged on Thursday.

The elderly woman arrived from India on May 26 for a month-long stay.

On June 25, 2018 - the first day of school after the holidays - the two women were alone in the flat when the maid is said to have grabbed a knife from the kitchen and stabbed the victim multiple times.

The maid left the unit with some cash and roamed around before going to the maid agency, where she was later arrested.

On Thursday, the employer became emotional as he recounted how his wife had screamed over the phone that afternoon as she told him that something had happened to her mother.

He said he reached home to find police officers in his flat, and when he was allowed to enter the unit, he found that his bedroom was in a mess.

He told the court that the family had a cordial relationship with the maid.

He and his wife found her "not to be very driven" in doing her chores, but his mother-in-law never complained about her to him, he said.

He said Zin Mar Nwe was invited to join the family in watching Bollywood movies on TV and was offered books to read.

He did tell her off on two occasions when her work was not up to par, he added. On the second occasion, he noticed that she had a tear in her eye.

His wife arranged for someone from the maid agency to talk to her over the phone on June 17 about her work, he said.

Defence counsel Christopher Bridges put it to the man that he had warned the maid that she could be sent back to Myanmar as he was her third employer. He said he could not remember.

The other family members are expected to testify when the trial resumes next Tuesday (Jan 11).

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