Employer threatened to kill domestic helper, court told

Local | 12 Oct 2021 3:47 pm

 A 37-year-old Filipina domestic worker who was suspected to have been abused by her employer -- a secondary school teacher -- told the court on Tuesday that her employer once threatened to kill her.

Eden Pales, 37, testified in court on the second day of her employer’s trial on Tuesday in West Kowloon Court.

The employer, Mak Pui-shan, 35, earlier pleaded not guilty for all six charges: one for common assault, three for assault occasioning bodily harm, one for administering a noxious substance, and one for criminal intimidation.

Pales recalled in court that on May 29 this year, Mak slapped her face after Mak’s baby boy cried when she was feeding him.

Angered by her son’s crying, Mak also allegedly punched her in the chest and back and scratched her face, even when she begged for mercy.

Pales also told Magistrate Li Cheuk-wai that Mak threatened to not pay her salary, and said that she would kill her.

During the beating, Mak was heard saying “I will not pay your salary to make sure you get the punishment you deserve, I don’t care if your mum and children will starve to death.”

Mak also said “I could do anything I want, including killing you. I have nothing to lose... I am rich and it is easy for me to hire a new worker.”

Pales said she had trouble breathing at that moment, and could not go to sleep that night as she feared for her life.

The next day, Pales fled her employer’s home when the family were out. She headed to a boarding house for domestic workers and told them about the incident, and they later accompanied her to file a report at the police station.

On the first day of the trial yesterday, the court heard that Pales was allegedly assaulted by Mak on several occasions. Mak was also said to have forbidden her to take a rest day, and once forced her to eat congee laced with dishwashing detergent.

Pales said the first time the defendant attacked her was between October and November last year when she forgot the employer’s instruction to clean the baby’s toys.

She said she was in the kitchen preparing food when Mak, raging with anger, followed and grabbed her hair and banged her head against the wall.

The next assault allegedly happened in mid-February this year, when the baby started crying inconsolably as she tried to have him finish his bowl of porridge.

Angered by her son’s crying, Mak allegedly grabbed the bowl of unfinished congee and tossed it on the countertop. Then she pumped dishwashing detergent into the bowl with the congee, and ordered the helper to eat it.

“I was crying at the time because I was scared that I would be poisoned. But she was very, very angry as she forced me to eat it,” Pales said.

She said she ate the detergent-laced congee out of fear that Mak would hit her again and that she might lose her job. As she ate the porridge, the defendant stood watch to make sure the helper consumed the congee.

Pales said she had to drink three cups of tap water afterwards so she wouldn’t be poisoned.

Sometime between February 24 and 28, Mak allegedly attacked the helper again without any reason while she was fixing the couple’s bed.

Pales said she was standing beside the bed when an angry Mak came in and slipped her right arm into the collar of the helper’s shirt and clawed her back from near the waist upwards.

The helper said she cried out in pain and begged the defendant to stop, but the employer just kept clawing her back.

After Mak walked away, Pales said she went to the bathroom and saw that her back was bleeding. She took off her shirt and counted about 10 fingernail marks.

The worst of the alleged attacks came on May 25, at around 6.30pm, triggered by another tantrum by the baby because he did not want to finish his congee, Pales said.

Mak reportedly barged into the kitchen as Pales was putting the bowl of congee on the sink, then attacked the helper.

“She was very angry and told me that I don’t know how to take care of a baby and slapped me in the face several times. The she took the turner (spatula) for frying and used it to beat my tummy and my right thigh,” Pales said.

She said she tried to move due to the pain, but Mak allegedly held her left thigh while continuing to beat her other thigh with the spatula.

Pales said she ended up squatting and leaning against a cabinet due to the pain, but Mak then kicked her about five times on her two legs just below the knee.

After the alleged assault, the employer went back to the living room, while Pales said she went to the bathroom to examine her bruises. She said she saw her cheeks were swollen while her belly and thighs had several bruises.

In addition to the physical assaults, Mak reportedly forbade the helper from taking a day off since she started serving the household on Mar 29, citing the pandemic as an excuse.

Pales said that while under Mark’s employ, she had to wake up at 5.30am and work until midnight. She also told the court that after work was the only time she could hold her phone.

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