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Maid jailed for stabbing to death 95-year-old employer who spat in her face

SINGAPORE  — After her 95-year-old employer spat in her face, a domestic helper became angry and decided to "teach her a lesson" once and for all.

Maid jailed for stabbing to death 95-year-old employer who spat in her face
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SINGAPORE  — After her 95-year-old employer spat in her face, a domestic helper became angry and decided to "teach her a lesson" once and for all.

The maid from Myanmar took two knives from the kitchen and stabbed the elderly woman while she was sleeping. One of the knives went through the victim's mouth while the other was lodged in her neck.

Sandar Htoo, whose identification documents state she is 36 years old but appears much older, was sentenced to 16 years' jail on Tuesday (Nov 15).

Sandar pleaded guilty to one count of culpable homicide not amounting to murder. She suffered from an adjustment disorder which substantially impaired her responsibility for the act, the prosecution said.

The court heard that Sandar began working for the victim, Madam Ang Pek Chai, at her home in Serangoon in February 2020.

Mdm Ang, who was Sandar's second employer, lived in a house on Recreation Road with her 78-year-old son. She had three other children who lived in neighbouring houses.

Sandar was tasked with household duties and was Mdm Ang's primary caregiver. Mdm Ang had difficulty walking and needed a walking frame, relying on Sandar to move around the house.

On the morning of Jul 6, 2020, Sandar woke up at 5am and was doing her chores at about 8am when she heard Mdm Ang using the bathroom upstairs.

She went up to assist her, and found Mdm Ang exiting the bathroom with her walking frame.

Mdm Ang was angry with Sandar for being late to help her and scolded her, before spitting on her face more than once.


Sandar felt insulted and angry, but kept quiet and wiped the spit off with her shirt. She continued with her chores that morning, but felt angry again when she saw Mdm Ang reading her newspapers, as she felt Mdm Ang was acting as if the spitting incident did not happen.

Mdm Ang later took a nap in her bedroom. While Sandar was cleaning a bathroom, she began thinking about the spitting incident.

She was upset as she claimed this was not the first time Mdm Ang treated her badly. According to Sandar, Mdm Ang previously scolded her and slapped her.

Sandar grew angry and wanted to teach the elderly woman a lesson. She went to the kitchen and grabbed two knives, one 30cm-long and another 18cm-long.

With a knife in each hand, she went up to Mdm Ang's bedroom. When she got there, she hesitated and paced back and forth.

She thought about slapping Mdm Ang and telling her how she had suffered, but decided against it as she thought the elderly woman might not understand her.

She then decided to stab Mdm Ang. She went to the bed where Mdm Ang lay sleeping and plunged the 30cm-long knife into the woman's mouth and the other knife into the side of her neck.

Mdm Ang woke up and struggled, but Sandar covered her with a blanket and fled with both knives still lodged in the elderly woman.

She escaped by climbing over a fence and running towards Upper Serangoon Road.

She asked a passer-by for help to go to a police station, and the passer-by called a Grabcar for her. When she arrived at the police post, Sandar said "Ah Ma killed" and gestured with a stabbing motion.

She was taken back to the house, where Mdm Ang was lying in a pool of blood on the bed. The longer knife was in her hand and the other knife was still in her neck.


A psychiatric assessment found that Sandar was suffering from adjustment disorder with depressed mood at the time of the offence.

Her distress stemmed from difficulty in coping with her duties, communication barriers and being socially isolated in the months leading up to the offence.

Her abnormality of mind substantially impaired her mental responsibility and her ability to control her actions, the court heard.

Deputy Public Prosecutors Han Ming Kuang, Delicia Tan and Grace Chua asked for 18 to 20 years' jail for Sandar.

Ms Chua said Sandar's act was deliberate, and that there was a breach of trust. The victim was also a vulnerable person, she said.

Sandar was defended by lawyers Daniel Koh and John Joseph under the Legal Assistance Scheme for Capital Offences. She had originally been charged with murder.

The defence said Sandar's real age was about 50 years old at the time of the offence. She had lied about her age to improve her chances of getting a job in Singapore.

The lawyers said this was a "mature age" and asked weight to be accorded to it, but the prosecution argued against this. If anything, Sandar should have known better than to commit the offence, said Ms Chua.

The defence asked for 12 to 15 years' jail instead, citing an early plea of guilt, Sandar's almost-immediate surrender and her mental condition.

The judge said the court should protect domestic workers from abuse by employers, but there should also be deterrence against domestic workers who attack their employers.

Justice Pang Khang Chau noted the psychiatrist's observations that Sandar was ill-treated by Mdm Ang, but that a change of employment was not feasible in the circumstances.

He also noted the "social isolation" Sandar faced, which precluded her from seeking help. Justice Pang said the circumstances referred to the measures taken by Singapore during the "circuit breaker" period.

The offence took place in July 2020, when Singapore was just emerging from this period, said the judge.

He noted that Sandar had hesitated before stabbing the victim. Once the victim resisted, Sandar did not continue with the stabbing, he said. CNA

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