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Maid on trial for murdering employer’s elderly mother-in-law who allegedly abused her

SINGAPORE — A domestic worker accused of stabbing her employer’s 70-year-old mother-in-law to death began standing trial for murder in the High Court on Tuesday (Nov 9).

Maid on trial for murdering employer’s elderly mother-in-law who allegedly abused her

Prosecutors said that Zin Mar Nwe had confessed in statements given to police investigators that she killed her employer's mother-in-law by stabbing her repeatedly.

  • Zin Mar Nwe faces a capital murder charge and was thought to be 23 at the time of the alleged offence in June 2018
  • However, she was really 17 and her agent told her to lie about her age
  • She alleged that her employer’s mother-in-law had physically abused her several times
  • She confessed to investigators that she then stabbed the older woman repeatedly with a knife


SINGAPORE — A domestic worker accused of stabbing her employer’s 70-year-old mother-in-law to death began standing trial for murder in the High Court on Tuesday (Nov 9).

Zin Mar Nwe, a Myanmar national, was thought to be 23 years old at the time of the incident in June 2018.

But investigations later revealed that she was 17 — corroborated by a bone-age test conducted by Tan Tock Seng Hospital — and her agent had told her to lie so that she could meet the minimum age of 23 to work as a maid in Singapore.

Zin Mar Nwe now faces a single charge of murder under Section 300(c) of the Penal Code, which carries either life imprisonment or the death penalty.

The petite woman appeared in court on Tuesday dressed in white prison garb, having been in remand since June 25 in 2018 when the alleged murder took place.

Prosecutors said that she had confessed in statements given to police investigators that she killed the victim by stabbing her repeatedly.


On May 10 that year, she started working for her employer and his family, which included his wife and two teenage daughters.

Due to a gag order imposed by the courts to protect two trial witnesses, the identities of the employer and his family, along with the exact location of the flat in Chua Chu Kang, cannot be published.

Zin Mar Nwe primarily took care of the household chores, laundry and cooking.

In their opening statement, Deputy Public Prosecutors (DPPs) Kumaraesan Gohulabalan and Sean Teh told the court that Zin Mar Nwe would wake up at about 5.30am and go to bed around 11pm.

She could call her relatives in Myanmar and, in her statements to the police, she said that she had no complaints about the family or her working conditions. She was paid S$450 every month, part of which went towards her repayment of a loan to the maid agency.

Her employer’s mother-in-law arrived from India on May 26 that year and planned to stay with the family for a month.

The case’s investigation officer testified in court on Tuesday that Zin Mar Nwe claimed the older woman had physically abused her several times behind the family’s back.

These allegations included telling her to perform various tasks, scalding her with a heated pan, hitting her on her head or body using various pieces of crockery or her hands, and kicking her on the chest when she was cutting the older woman’s toenails.

The investigation officer added that Zin Mar Nwe said her employer’s daughter was occasionally at home but not in the same room when the abuse occurred.

However, a subsequent medical report did not show any injuries on Zin Mar Nwe that could have arisen from the alleged abuse.


On the day of the killing, the domestic worker was alone with the employer’s mother after the rest of the family left home at 11.30am.

Between then and about 12.15pm, Zin Mar Nwe claimed that the other woman became upset with her and told her loudly: “Tomorrow, you go agent.”

The prosecution told the court: “When the accused heard this, she felt ‘angry’. She grabbed a knife with her right hand and stabbed the deceased repeatedly, until the deceased stopped moving. The accused observed that the deceased tried to push her back but was unable to do so.” 

The investigation officer further testified that Zin Mar Nwe had told him about her mind being in a blank when she held onto the knife and stabbed the victim, who was lying on a sofa watching television in the living room.

The victim suffered 26 stab wounds in total.

Afterwards, Zin Mar Nwe ransacked the master bedroom and broke a cupboard lock to retrieve her belongings, but she could not find her passport.

She then washed the knife in the kitchen, left it there, changed into a dress and took some money and a transport fare card before leaving the flat.

She went to her maid agency nearby and asked for her passport but left when she realised that staff members at the agent were going to call her employers.

She then took public transport to various places including the hawker centre at Bukit Merah Central where she went to eat.

She eventually returned to the maid agency in a taxi at about 5.30pm. Staff members alerted the police and she was arrested there.

The taxi driver later found a plastic bag containing S$114 in cash. When he tried to return it to Zin Mar Nwe, she said that it did not belong to her, but forensic analysis later found that the bag and notes were stained with her blood.

When she was examined by Dr Alias Ligo from the Institute of Mental Health in 2018 and earlier this year, she was found to have no mental illness that impaired her mental responsibility for her acts at the time.

However, Dr Tommy Tan, who is in private practice, stated in a report last year that she suffered from either mixed anxiety and depressive reaction, or adjustment disorder with mixed anxiety and depressed mood, which substantially impaired her mental responsibility.

This would give rise to a defence of diminished responsibility.

Dr Tan also said that Zin Mar Nwe was in a dissociative state at the time of the offence.

In response, the prosecution argued that Dr Tan’s diagnosis was solely based on information given by Zin Mar Nwe, and that the maid agent’s observation of her that day also contradicted the finding of a dissociative state.

The trial before Justice Andre Maniam continues on Tuesday afternoon.

Related topics

crime court murder stabbing death foreign domestic worker employer

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