Maid gets six years for killing baby girl

PUBLISHED : Tuesday, 20 April, 1999, 12:00am
UPDATED : Tuesday, 20 April, 1999, 12:00am

A maid's stressful and 'depressing' work conditions were no defence against the killing of a baby girl she had lovingly raised since the child's birth, a judge said before jailing the woman for six years for manslaughter.

Mr Justice Frank Stock said Marwito Sunami, 27, must be severely punished for the manslaughter of nine-month-old Law Chi-wing.

'You were placed in a position of considerable trust, and in that position of trust you committed a violent act upon a helpless child,' he said in the Court of First Instance. 'The law is bound to protect children in this situation, even in the case of a single lapse.' Sunami was hired from an Indonesian maid agency by Chi-wing's parents, Law Kwong and Lai Wai-ling, shortly before the baby was born in 1996. She shared a room with Chi-wing at the Laws' Tseung Kwan O flat and cared for her and their other daughter, aged three, while doing household chores.

A mother of two young children, Sunami's situation was a 'depressing picture', the judge said.

'It was your first employment and first trip abroad. You were given a job in a culture alien to you and not speaking the language of anyone about you.

'I accept those circumstances placed you under strain and stress, but you are old enough to take on responsibility,' he said.

Sunami was alone with the children on August 21, 1997, when Chi-wing suffered major skull fractures and severe swelling of the brain. She died four days later.

Medical experts said the injuries were consistent with a blow to the head equivalent to a 65km/h car crash, and violent shaking known as 'shaken baby syndrome'.

Mr Justice Stock said the precise nature of the incident would never be known since only Sunami, who had pleaded not guilty to manslaughter, knew the truth, and she had refused to tell.

He found no motive in her having been denied a pay advancement a week earlier, but said the maid might have been 'in a foul frame of mind' when she killed the child.

Niall Stirling, for the defence, said Sunami and Mrs Law did not have a good relationship but the maid had never carried any ill-will towards the children.

Psychiatric reports described Sunami as introspective and of limited intelligence, saying she had always blamed herself for events in her life.

'She is a tragic figure, and of course the bereaved parents are equally tragic figures,' Mr Stirling said.