Woman pleads guilty to joining daughter in abusing Myanmar maid who was tortured to death

Prema S. Naraynasamy (left) pleaded guilty to 47 charges of voluntarily causing hurt to domestic helper Piang Ngaih Don. PHOTO: ST FILE, HELPING HANDS FOR MIGRANT WORKERS, ST FILE

SINGAPORE – The mother of one of Singapore’s worst maid abusers, whose helper died, pleaded guilty on Monday to also abusing the maid.

Prema S. Naraynasamy, 64, pleaded guilty to 47 charges of voluntarily causing hurt to the maid and one charge of attempting to voluntarily cause hurt.

She is claiming trial to one charge of causing evidence to disappear.

She had originally also faced a murder charge, but was later given a discharge not amounting to an acquittal.

The victim, Ms Piang Ngaih Don, 24, from Myanmar, had been starved, tortured and, ultimately, killed.

Between October 2015 and her death in July 2016, Ms Piang Ngaih Don was physically assaulted almost daily, deprived of food and rest, and made to shower and relieve herself with the toilet door open.

In the last 12 days of her life, she was tied to the window grille at night while she slept on the floor in the same room as Prema, who slept on the bed.

Ms Piang Ngaih Don weighed 39kg when she started working for the family on May 28, 2015, but weighed a mere 24kg when she died on July 26, 2016, from the final assault.

Several clips taken from cameras installed in their three-bedroom flat in Bishan were played in court on Monday, showing Prema and her daughter repeatedly abusing Ms Piang Ngaih Don.

In one of the clips, Prema was seen beating the maid with a bamboo pole that was used to hang clothes.

In another, she had grabbed Ms Piang Ngaih Don by the hair, dragging her to the ground before lifting her up by her hair again.

Other clips showed Prema violently shaking Ms Piang Ngaih Don and beating her as she was relieving herself in the toilet.

The autopsy found that the maid died from a brain injury following severe blunt trauma to the neck.

In total, she was found to have 31 recent scars and 47 external injuries on all parts of her body, including the face, neck and limbs.

Her neck had been extensively injured, with her trachea and laryngeal cartilages becoming clearly visible on the outside.

Prema’s daughter, housewife Gaiyathiri Murugayan, 41, the wife of a police officer, had admitted in February 2021 to starving, torturing and killing Ms Piang Ngaih Don.

Gaiyathiri had been sentenced on June 22, 2021, to 30 years in prison – the longest jail term meted out here in a maid abuse case.

Gaiyathiri Murugayan being taken back by police to her home in Bishan for investigations on Aug 3, 2016. PHOTO: ST FILE

She had poured cold water on Ms Piang Ngaih Don, and had slapped, pushed, punched, kicked and stomped on her.

She also hit the maid with objects such as a plastic bottle or metal ladle, pulled her from the ground by the hair, burned her with a heated iron and choked her.

The maid’s meals often comprised sliced bread soaked in water, cold food straight from the refrigerator or some rice at night.

She was allowed to sleep for only about five hours a night and did her chores wearing multiple layers of face masks as Gaiyathiri found her unhygienic.

In total, Gaiyathiri pleaded guilty to 28 charges and another 87 charges were taken into consideration for sentencing.

The case was described by High Court judge See Kee Oon as among the worst cases of culpable homicide, noting that Ms Piang Ngaih Don endured agonising physical and psychological harm for a long time before she died.

Gaiyathiri’s former husband, Kevin Chelvam, 43, has been suspended from service since 2016, and faces multiple charges in relation to the abuse of Ms Piang Ngaih Don.

His case is still pending before the courts. Their divorce was finalised in 2020.

Prema’s case has been adjourned for mitigation and sentencing and is expected to be heard again on Jan 9, 2023.

For each charge of voluntarily causing hurt, she can be jailed for up to two years and fined up to $5,000.

Under the enhanced penalties for offences against domestic maids, the court may sentence her to 1½ times the amount of punishment.

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