Maid abuse trial - Man: Mentally ill wife had no evil intention
THE man on trial for starving his former Filipino domestic worker yesterday spoke of his wife's obsession with cleanliness and her mental illnesses - anorexia nervosa and obsessive-compulsive disorder.
Businessman Lim Choon Hong said he often travelled for work, and left household matters to his spouse, housewife Chong Sui Foon.
Lim said Chong, who is currently taking psychiatric medication, did not intend to harm their helper Thelma Oyasan Gawidan.
"I do admit that Thelma has lost weight, but it's definitely not because of my wife's evil intention or the wickedness in her heart; it's just unfortunate," he said while crying.
The couple, both 47, face charges of failing to provide Ms Gawidan, 40, with adequate food. Under the law, employers have to also bear the cost of food for their helpers.
Lim found out, after their marriage, that Chong had seen a psychiatrist and was warded a few times for anorexia nervosa - an obsessive desire to lose weight by refusing to eat.
She also suffered from obsessive-compulsive disorder and treated cleanliness "like a religion".
There was no cooking done in their condominium in Cuscaden and there were also no snacks at home. Lim now lives at the D'Leedon condominium at Leedon Heights.
"If the kitchen is dirtied, to clean it takes a long time. My wife won't (just) mop it and be done," Lim said.
The family normally had two meals a day, but sometimes husband and wife would have only one meal.
"My wife mainly takes bread; she doesn't like anything else," Lim said. Sometimes, she ate rice. Occasionally, Chong would not eat at all.
As cleaning rooms would take up a lot of time, the family ended up "camping in the living room", so that the rooms could be cleaned less frequently, Lim said.
They also resorted to showering in the public toilet next to the swimming pool, to save time from cleaning the home toilet after each use, he claimed.
As the household ran on a fixed "schedule", Lim said he and Ms Gawidan at times skipped bathing, "because the opportunity to shower or the window has disappeared".
During his cross-examination by Deputy Public Prosecutor S. Sellakumaran, Lim was shown a photo of Ms Gawidan taken a few days after she fled and sought refuge at a shelter in April last year, when she was 29kg.
Lim said he noticed that the helper started to look that thin only around February or March last year. "If she looked like this, I would definitely be shocked," he said.
Asked why he did not think there was anything wrong with her when he saw how frail she later was, Lim said: "She didn't complain. I would expect her to tell me if she was feeling unwell, but she did not."
Lim denied that the maid had spoken to him about the inadequacy of her food. She spoke to him only about "food in general", he said. His response to her was: "The whole household is like that, so you just follow."
Lim said he also knew Ms Gawidan "always ate her food", "she finished her food", and she was also given meat, eggs and vegetables.
Pressed by the DPP, he conceded he had never seen what she ate, or see her eating at all. Asked to clarify how he knew what she ate, or if she ate at all, Lim said in exasperation: "She has to eat right? She doesn't run on air."
The court also heard that the couple put their previous Indonesian maid on a similar diet as Ms Gawidan.
Ms Gawidan had testified she was given only instant noodles and plain bread twice a day while working for the couple.
The trial is expected to resume next month. If convicted, Lim and Chong each face a fine of up to $10,000, imprisonment of up to 12 months, or both.