Skip to main content

Advertisement

Advertisement

Couple accused of starving maid, causing her weight to drop from 49kg to 29kg

SINGAPORE — In a shocking case of alleged maid abuse, a Singaporean couple is accused of providing their Filipino domestic worker with two meals daily of only instant noodles and bread for more than a year, causing her weight to drop from 49kg to 29kg by the time she escaped to a shelter for help.

SINGAPORE — In a shocking case of alleged maid abuse, a Singaporean couple is accused of providing their Filipino domestic worker with two meals daily of only instant noodles and bread for more than a year, causing her weight to drop from 49kg to 29kg by the time she escaped to a shelter for help.

Lim Choon Hong and his wife Chong Sui Foon, both 47, claimed trial to one offence each under the Employment of Foreign Manpower Act, which is punishable with up to 12 months’ jail and/or a S$10,000 fine.

Details of their alleged ill-treatment of their maid, Ms Thelma Oyasan Gawidan, 40, were revealed in court today (Dec 14). In her 15 months working for the couple, they are said to have made her work for more than 24 hours at a stretch, while providing her with only two meals a day. Lim, who is understood to be a trader formerly, and his homemaker wife also allegedly forbade her from brushing her teeth, and restricted her to ­showers just once or twice a week — at the public toilet in their Orchard condominium, where Chong would allegedly watch to make sure she did not take too long. The storeroom was where she slept, Ms Thelma told investigators.

Taking the stand today, she broke down twice as she recounted the experience.

“I became skinny. I don’t recognize myself when I look in the mirror,” she said, choking up with tears. “I felt my body shivering. I (didn’t) have energy.”

After one month of working for the couple, Ms Gawidan stopped having her period, the court heard. A few months later, she started losing her hair and she saw her clothes becoming looser.

Ms Gawidan said through an interpreter that her first meal would typically be two to three slices of bread and instant noodles, with one slice of tomato and cucumber, and a piece of meat the size of her little finger. Her second meal would be five to six slices of bread.

If she asked for more food, Chong would give in at times, but then give her less for her next meal, she added.

When Deputy Public Prosecutor Tan Soo Tet asked if her former employers noticed her weight loss, Ms Gawidan said she tried pointing it out to Chong. “One time, I pleaded with her when she was in the bathroom with me: ‘Look at my body, I am skin and bones already’,” she said.

She broke down again when she was shown photos of herself when she weighed 29kg, right after she fled to a shelter run by the Humanitarian Organisation for Migration Economics (HOME) on April 18 last year. Her case was referred to the Ministry of Manpower.

Ms Gawidan also recounted one occasion where Lim and Chong checked her and their three children into Raffles Hotel when they went on a holiday. The children — their ages were not revealed — ordered food from the hotel while she ate instant noodles and bread that the couple packed from home.

The court also heard that Ms Gawidan worked odd hours where she slept in the day and worked at night, an arrangement that was agreed upon earlier on as Lim followed the European market in his job as a trader.

Citing an example of her long working hours, Ms Gawidan said she would wake up at 7pm on a Monday and work till Wednesday morning. “I don’t get enough sleep. I felt my body weaken,” she said.

Today, Dr Lin Huiyu, a senior resident at Tan Tock Seng Hospital’s Department of Gastroenterology and Hepatology who examined Ms Gawidan after she had gone to HOME, also testified. Ms Thelma had suffered from significant weight loss due to the insufficient intake of food, said Dr Lim, who ruled out other medical and organic causes.

At a review at TTSH in June last year, Ms Gawidan’s weight had returned to 43kg.

The trial continues tomorrow, with Ms Gawidan returning to the stand.

Read more of the latest in

Advertisement

Popular

Advertisement

Stay in the know. Anytime. Anywhere.

Subscribe to get daily news updates, insights and must reads delivered straight to your inbox.

By clicking subscribe, I agree for my personal data to be used to send me TODAY newsletters, promotional offers and for research and analysis.