A Singaporean couple who denied charges of failing to provide their former Filipino domestic worker with adequate food for 15 months, causing her weight to drop by 20kg, have thrown in the towel after three days of hearing.
Madam Thelma Oyasan Gawidan, 40, weighed just 29.4kg in April 2014, compared with 49kg when she came to Singapore in late 2012.
Her former employer, freelance trader Lim Choon Hong, 47, pleaded guilty yesterday to a charge of contravening the Employment of Foreign Manpower (Work Passes) Regulations 2012, which requires employers to pay and provide adequate food and medical treatment for their domestic helpers.
Lim's spouse, Chong Sui Foon, also 47, admitted to a count of abetting Lim in committing the offence, which carries a punishment of up to 12 months' jail and a $10,000 fine.
The couple stood calmly in the dock as they entered their pleas and admitted to the facts of the case - a sharp contrast to when Lim broke down on the stand and Chong sobbed in the dock during his cross-examination at the trial in December last year.
But the case - which engrossed the public, particularly when Madam Gawidan spoke of her ordeal, in which her salary and cellphone were kept from her and she had no days off and was not allowed to go out on her own - may be far from over.
The couple's newly appointed lawyer, Mr Raymond Lye, told the court his clients were undergoing assessment by a psychiatrist and requested more time for the reports to be prepared.
Once they are ready, the prosecution told the court it may ask either, or both Lim and Chong to undergo another assessment at the Institute of Mental Health. And if the defence and prosecution psychiatrists give differing opinions, a Newton hearing, in which both experts will testify in court and be cross-examined, may be held.
District Judge Low Wee Ping adjourned the case to April 20. The couple are out on bail of $3,000.
Lim's cross-examination had been scheduled to resume on Tuesday, with five more days of hearing set aside for the trial. But Mr Lye told the judge his clients would be pleading guilty instead.
While on the stand last year, Lim testified his wife had suffered before from anorexia nervosa - an obsessive desire to lose weight by refusing to eat - and from obsessive-compulsive disorder. Due to her preferences, their lifestyle "revolved around food and cleanliness", he said. In 2010, their second child ran away from home because of his wife's "tendencies" and has yet to return, Lim said.
The couple gave Madam Gawidan two meals a day at their home in Cuscaden Walk. The first meal, usually provided at around 1am to 2am, comprised two to three slices of plain white bread and one to two packets of instant noodles. Occasionally, Chong mixed very small portions of vegetables and meat with the noodles. The second meal, given in the late morning or early afternoon, would consist of five to six slices of plain white bread.
Lim bought Madam Gawidan's food. Lim, Chong and their children, aged 22, 19 and 17 years, ate different food, which was greater in quantity and more nutritious.
On April 19, 2014, Madam Gawidan fled the apartment after she was left alone near the lift. She now works for another household.