When Singaporeans learned of the horrors that Gaiyathiri Murugayan inflicted on her helper Ms Piang Ngaih Don, virtually everyone was in shock.
Weighing only 24kg at the time of her passing, the late Ms Piang’s plight was probably among the most horrific cases of helper abuse in Singapore.
After admitting to torturing her helper to death, Gaiyathiri received a 30-year prison sentence.
However, she submitted an appeal for a lighter sentence earlier this year and requested to provide documents to support her plea.
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The judges initially denied her request. Now, they are turning down her appeal too.
According to TODAY, Gaiyathiri wanted to reduce her jail sentence to between 12 and 15 years.
Citing her psychiatric disorder, she reportedly argued that Justice See Kee Oon had failed to take into account her obsessive-compulsive disorder diagnosis in her initial sentencing.
In addition, multiple psychiatrists had apparently agreed that her additional diagnosis of major depressive disorder and obsessive-compulsive personality disorder contributed to her committing her offences.
Channel NewsAsia (CNA) noted that these diagnoses qualified her “for the defence of diminished responsibility”.
The court thus reduced her murder charge to culpable homicide.
To further support her plea, Gaiyathiri alleged that her condition had improved after treatment. To justify this, she claimed that she had refrained from being violent towards other inmates despite becoming the victim of their “bullying”.
According to her, this showed her treatment of Ms Piang was due to her disorders and lack of medication.
The Straits Times (ST) reported that Gaiyathiri felt some pressure to plead guilty as she thought it would hasten her mother’s sentencing process.
She argued that the judge did not consider concerns about her children’s health, nor her remorse at the time of sentencing.
Gaiyathiri then proceeded to repeat previous claims about suffering verbal and sexual abuse in prison.
The panel of three judges, however, has rejected her plea, TODAY reports.
Instead, they upheld the 30-year sentence, citing the severity of her offences and public condemnation of the case.
Therefore, granting her judicial mercy and giving her a lighter sentence was not possible.
Explaining the verdict, Justice Andrew Phang said Gaiyathiri couldn’t give her psychiatric report by Dr Rajesh to justify a lighter sentence, reported CNA.
His findings allegedly contradict those of another psychiatrist, Dr Derrick Yeo, to which she had earlier admitted.
According to Dr Yeo, despite the impairment of Gaiyathiri’s mental responsibility, she was still able to think consciously and exercise her will.
Facts of the case which pointed to Gaiyathiri assaulting Ms Pang due to perceived lapses also proved she was purposeful in committing the offences.
As for the stressor that was her children’s health due to Ms Piang’s alleged poor hygiene, the court felt it was “no excuse for her behaviour”, noted TODAY.
And since the court had earlier accepted that her disorders contributed to her crimes, her improved behaviour cannot be a mitigating factor.
With regard to Gaiyathiri’s claim that she was pressured into her plea of guilt, there was apparently no evidence to suggest the expiditon of proceedings for her mother’s sentencing.
The Court of Appeal said this proved her appeal to be an “afterthought” after she felt that she had received an “unfavourable sentence”.
Justice Phang agreed that Gaiyathiri’s claims demonstrated her “patent lack of remorse as she seeks to blame anything and anyone but herself for her offending behaviour”.
After the verdict, Gaiyathiri stated that she would submit a petition to Prime Minister Lee Hsien Loong for a lighter sentence, as she does not wish to die in prison.
When news of the case first emerged in 2021, its brutal nature shocked the public.
An innocent helper who had come to Singapore in search of a better life, Ms Piang ended up becoming the victim of ruthless abuse up till her passing.
Keeping this in mind, it is only fair for Gaiyathiri to face the consequences for her actions.
For Ms Piang’s family too, perhaps the verdict will bring them closure and attain justice for her.
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Featured image adapted from TODAY on Facebook and MS News.
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