SINGAPORE – A domestic worker from Indonesia who stabbed her employer more than 90 times at her Telok Kurau house nearly five years ago was sentenced to life imprisonment for murder on Friday (April 23).
The High Court convicted Daryati, who goes by one name, a second time of murdering Madam Seow Kim Choo after rejecting her defence that she was suffering from a mental disorder that reduced her responsibility for the killing.
Madam Seow, 59, was killed on June 7, 2016. She had 94 knife wounds, most of which were on her head and neck.
Daryati, 28, had originally faced a charge under Section 300(a) of the Penal Code, for killing with the intention to cause death, which carries the mandatory death penalty.
Partway through the trial, which was heard for 17 days between April 23, 2019 and March 4 last year, the prosecution reduced the charge to murder under Section 300(c).
The reduced charge carries life imprisonment or the death sentence, but prosecutors said they would not be seeking the death penalty.
After she was convicted of the lesser charge, Daryati changed her mind and wanted to run the defence of diminished responsibility to further reduce the charge to culpable homicide.
The conviction was set aside and the trial resumed.
Daryati did not dispute the physical acts of killing Madam Seow, but relied on the evidence of Dr Tommy Tan that she suffered from persistent depressive disorder with intermittent major depressive disorder.
The prosecution’s expert, Dr Jaydip Sarkar, said Daryati was not suffering from any mental disorder at the time.
On Friday, High Court judge Valerie Thean found that Dr Tan’s evidence did not stand up to scrutiny and that the diagnostic criteria were not met.
Justice Thean noted that Dr Tan’s report was based on Daryati’s self-reported symptoms with no independent corroborative facts.
She said that Daryati’s capacity to function was not impaired – she was able to conceal various weapons around the house in planning her attack on Madam Seow.
After Daryati was convicted, Deputy Public Prosecutor Wong Kok Weng withdrew a stood-down charge of attempted murder of Madam Seow’s husband, Mr Ong Thiam Soon, who is 62 this year.
Daryati who started working for the family on April 13, 2016, said she was treated well.
However, she grew homesick and pined for her lover Indah, who was working in Hong Kong as a domestic maid.
She hatched a plan to get back her passport, which was kept in a locked safe in the master bedroom, and to steal money from Madam Seow so that she can start a business when she returned to Indonesia.
Daryati geared up for the confrontation by sharpening one knife and hiding a second, smaller knife in a basket under the sink of a toilet on the second floor of the house.
She ultimately took along another weapon – a long knife from the storeroom – when she confronted Madam Seow.
Daryati slit and stabbed Madam Seow’s neck, and as the victim lay bleeding on the toilet floor, she retrieved the knife she had earlier hidden, and continued stabbing her employer.
Daryati used so much force that at least three of the blows caused fractures to the victim’s face.