Maid, 22, who stabbed employer's mother-in-law 26 times in 2018 found guilty of murder

She argued that she was in a "dissociative state" during the killing, which the judge later rejected the claim.

Ruth Chai | May 19, 2023, 05:31 PM

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A Burmese maid, 22, who stabbed her employer's elderly mother-in-law 26 times until she died in 2018 was found guilty of murder on May 18.

Zin Mar Nwe, then 17, had stabbed the 70-year-old victim, after the latter threatened to send her back to her agent.

Justice Andre Maniam rejected the defence's arguments that the maid had not been conscious of the stabbing, or that she was in a dissociative state of mind.

Although she claimed to be suffering from mixed anxiety and depressive reaction or adjustment disorder with mixed anxiety and depressed mood, there was insufficient evidence to support this diagnosis.

The victim and her family cannot be named due to a gag order.

Stabbed victim when she was asleep

Zin Mar Nwe arrived in Singapore on Jan. 5, 2018, and started working for her employer on May. 10, 2018.

Although her passport stated that her age was 23, investigations revealed that she was 17 a that time.

On May 2, the victim arrived from India to stay with the employer at her flat.

On Jun. 25, 2018, the victim and Zin Mar Nwe were left alone in the flat.

They had a dispute, where the victim allegedly threatened to send her back to her agent the next day.

The maid was furious, so she grabbed a knife and approached the victim while she was watching television.

She stabbed the victim 26 times until she stopped moving.

After the stabbing. Zin Mar Nwe retrieved her belongings, washed the knife, and changed her clothes before leaving the flat.

She went to the maid agency at 12:38pm to ask for her passport. She left when she heard the agents say that they were going to call her employers.

After wandering around until 5:30pm, she returned to her agency, where she was arrested.

Sought to rely on partial defence for diminished responsibility

Zin Mar Nwe elected to testify in her own defence.

While she admitted to intentionally causing bodily injuries that were sufficient to cause death, she sought to raise the partial defence of diminished responsibility.

She cited that she suffered from mixed anxiety and depressive reaction or adjustment disorder with mixed anxiety and depressed mood at the time of the killing.

The defence's expert witness, psychiatrist Tommy Tan, opined that she was in a "dissociative state" at the time of the killing, as she could not control or remember her acts when she was stabbing the victim.

Lastly, she also claimed that the victim had abused her prior to the killing, including scalding her with a heated pan, hitting her with wooden and steel ladles, kicking and slapping her, etc.

Justice Andre Maniam rejected the defence that Zin Mar Nwe was in a dissociative state, as her behaviour in the aftermath of the stabbing would be inconsistent with the diagnosis, and rejected that she was suffering from adjustment disorder.

Justice Maniam highlighted that Zin Mar Nwe was not a credible witness, and repeatedly told lies to exculpate or reduce her culpability and gain sympathy for her actions.

She lied to the police that two men had killed the victim after she had stepped out of the flat to throw rubbish.

However, she later admitted to the stabbing, describing the killing to the police in vivid detail. She said that she lied to the police in her first statement out of fear, but decided to tell the truth as she "was a Buddhist".

She then said that while she admitted to killing the victim, she could not remember stabbing her.

As for suffering alleged abuse, Zin Mar Nwe's testimony in court was inconsistent with that from her statements.

Furthermore, no one from the victim's household had witness the alleged abuses, nor did she record any reference to the abuse in her diary.

Was not in a "dissociative state"

It was noted that the killing itself was carried out with deliberation, as Zin Mar Nwe reacted in anger to the victim telling her that she would be sent back to her agent.

In the aftermath of the murder, she displayed rational behaviour by retrieving her belongings, leaving the flat and going to the maid agency to retrieve her passport, thus highlighting that she was capable of processing and reflecting on what had happened.

She also thought about the murder, and knew that she made a "big mistake", showing that she was able to feel guilt and regret.

Addressing the court on sentencing, Deputy Public Prosecutor Kumaresan Gohulabalan said that the prosecution will not be seeking the death penalty.

Zin Mar Nwe is represented by lawyer Christopher Bridges, under the Legal Assistance Scheme for Capital Offences.

She can be sentenced to death or life imprisonment for murder.

Top photo: Mothership file photo