Court rejects appeal request of S'porean woman who starved & beat Myanmar helper to death

The judge who delivered the Court of Appeal's decision said that there remains "no live dispute" over Gaiyathiri's guilt or innocence.

Lean Jinghui | May 05, 2022, 04:51 PM

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Gaiyathiri Murugayan, who is serving a 30-year jail term for starving, torturing, and killing her domestic worker Piang Ngaih Don, sought a court order on Wednesday, May 4, to disclose more records in support of her appeal.

According to CNA, the Court of Appeal dismissed the 42-year-old's application for the additional materials, ruling that the records were irrelevant.

Gaiyathiri's appeal against her sentence for repeatedly abusing 24-year-old Piang until she died in 2016 has not yet been heard.

Sought medical records for allegedly being denied treatment

The Straits Times reported that the documents sought by Gaiyathiri included medical records of herself and her mother, Prema Naraynasamy, 63.

Gaiyathiri alleged that she and her mother had been denied proper medical treatment by the Singapore Prison Service (SPS) while in prison.

Gaiyathiri requested incident records from SPS in relation to her complaints about being physically and sexually abused by fellow inmates, which she claimed had not been properly investigated by SPS.

In response, SPS stated that it has fully investigated the incidents -- including two incidents where Gaiyathiri was the aggressor -- and punished the relevant parties.

It added that there were no incidents involving sexual abuse.

Alleged WhatsApp exchanges between herself and victim's family

According to CNA, Gaiyathiri also sought records of WhatsApp messages between herself and the victim's family, which allegedly showed the family had forgiven her.

Deputy Public Prosecutors Mohamed Faizal, Senthilkumaran Sabapathy and Sean Teh said it was doubtful that the WhatsApp messages between Gaiyathiri and Piang's family existed, as there had been no opportunity for such an exchange.

Gaiyathiri was arrested soon after Piang's death in 2016 and had no access to her phone or any mobile device with WhatsApp ability.

Gaiyathiri also requested permission to introduce a further report by the defence's psychiatrist Jacob Rajesh.

CNA reported that she wanted a Newton hearing -- usually done to settle certain issues the defence and prosecution cannot agree on -- to resolve differences in opinion between Rajesh and Institute of Mental Health psychiatrist Derrick Yeo.

Court of Appeal rejects request

The prosecutors said Gaiyathiri's application only further reinforced the point that she lacks "complete remorse" for what a High Court judge once called "among the worst type[s] of culpable homicide".

They added:

"With respect, the entire application reeks of an attempt to fish for evidence with the fanciful hope that some of the evidence could be used in her favour."

Regarding Gaiyathiri's request to introduce Rajesh's report, the prosecutors noted that Gaiyathiri had already made an informed decision to accept the opinion of Yeo previously.

A 2019 report concluded that Gaiyathiri suffered from major depressive disorder and obsessive compulsive personality disorder, both of which substantially contributed to her offences.

The prosecutors argued that Gaiyathiri is therefore seeking "to have her cake and eat it", having already had her charge reduced.

According to Today, in giving their decision, the three judges stated that the existence of the WhatsApp messages were speculative at best, and that Gaiyathiri had no legal basis to ask for the documents anyway.

Justice Phang, who delivered the Court of Appeal's decision, added that the records were not relevant in determining whether her plea of guilt was conducted properly, as there remains "no live dispute" over Gaiyathiri's guilt or innocence.

He added that the SPS had said it would have provided the medical records if Gaiyathiri asked.

The court ordered both the prosecution and defence to file their arguments within eight days on whether Gaiyathiri and her lawyer, Joseph Chen, should pay costs to the prosecution for the application.

Background of case

Details of the horrific case were first revealed in February 2021, when Gaiyathiri pleaded guilty to 28 charges, including culpable homicide, voluntarily causing grievous hurt by starvation, and voluntarily causing hurt by a heated substance.

Myanmar national Piang, 24, had endured almost 10 months of violent abuse from 2015 to 2016, under the employment of Gaiyathiri.

This included being assaulted by Gaiyathiri several times a day, and being forced to subsist on only sliced bread soaked in water, cold food from the fridge, or some rice for meals.

In June 2016, Gaiyathiri also burned Piang by pressing a hot iron into her forehead and her forearm.

In the days leading up to her death, Piang was tied with a string to the window grille, and further starved.

She finally succumbed after an assault in July 2016, with Gaiyathiri beating Piang as she felt Piang was doing the laundry too slow.

At the time of her death, Piang weighed only 24kg.

Gaiyathiri was sentenced to 30 years' jail in June 2021.

Gaiyathiri's mother, Prema Naraynasamy, and husband, Kevin Chelvam, also face charges of maid abuse. Their cases are pending in court.

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Top images via The Straits Times YouTube channel and Lynn Lee Facebook