SINGAPORE: The mother of a woman who abused a maid to death testified in her former son-in-law’s trial on Wednesday (Jul 26), saying she was concerned that her daughter was suffering from “mental torture” because of the maid, whom she claimed could not do any work well.
Prema S Naraynasamy, who is serving 17 years’ jail for her role in the fatal abuse of 24-year-old Myanmar maid Ms Piang Ngaih Don, broke down on the stand after saying that she had already lost one son to suicide.
Prema was escorted from prison to testify in the trial of 44-year-old suspended police officer Kevin Chelvam, who is her former son-in-law. Chelvam and Prema’s daughter Gaiyathiri Murugayan divorced after the offences were discovered.
Chelvam is contesting four charges of hurting the maid, abetting Prema in starving her, removing evidence in the form of a closed-circuit television recorder and lying to the police.
Prema, 64, told the court through an interpreter that she was “very close” to the maid, whom she called Don. However, she also said the maid did not speak much to her.
Prema claimed that the maid would eat breakfast whenever she went over to her daughter’s house in Bishan, which was about three days a week.
Ms Don would eat roti prata, or chicken biryani with extra rice, if she accompanied Prema to the market in the morning. If not, Prema would give her four slices of bread for breakfast and a “big cup of coffee”.
Prema said Ms Don would also eat whatever the elderly woman cooked for lunch.
She claimed that her daughter would not restrict what Ms Don ate, adding that the maid once ate chicken biryani with extra rice at a market before finishing a second packet a home.
She said she fed Ms Don well, whether it was at her own home in Hougang or her daughter’s flat.
This is in contrast to the prosecution’s case, which is that Ms Don was starved and given very little food, often just single slices of bread soaked in water.
Prema said that she noticed the maid was losing weight around May or June 2016, and told her: “You eat so much and yet you are losing weight, but Ah Ma eats so little and yet still fat.”
Prema said there was a time the maid was getting “really skinny” and she told her daughter about this.
“I told her she was getting very thin, but I’m not sure why, because she does eat a lot. I told her that she might be sick,” said Prema.
She said she did not know if Gaiyathiri told Chelvam about this.
DAUGHTER SUFFERED FROM “MENTAL TORTURE”
According to Prema, Ms Don “doesn’t know anything, doesn’t know how to cook” and “never does anything properly”.
“With the maid there, (my daughter) felt like she was going to go crazy. She felt very stressed. She never does anything properly, we have to keep repeating our instructions to her over and over again,” said Prema.
“She doesn’t finish one work properly and go on to the next, she takes two to three hours to finish even one simple work. All of this gave Gaiyathiri a lot of stress. Gaiyathiri was suffering a lot.”