Police question maid for 15 hours over 'stolen' Octopus card

PUBLISHED : Sunday, 10 May, 2009, 12:00am
UPDATED : Sunday, 10 May, 2009, 12:00am

A Filipino domestic helper who used an Octopus card she claims she found at a bus stop was detained and questioned by police for nearly 15 hours last week.

Lorie Delgado, 50, was questioned from 8.45am on Thursday until she was released on police bail at 11.18pm. She was stopped by MTR Corporation staff at Hang Hau station for allegedly using a stolen card, a police spokesman confirmed.

She was asked to report back to police on June 3.

Ms Delgado, who has been working in Hong Kong for 14 years, said she found the card on the ground at a bus stop last year. She kept it but did not use it until she lost her own Octopus card.

Ms Delgado was taking her young ward to school, accompanied by her employer, Tracey Furniss, and was about to get on a train bound for Tseung Kwan O when she was stopped by MTR staff.

She was then taken to Tseung Kwan O police station.

'Until now, I still feel my mind is blank,' she said, adding that she did not expect such an ordeal over an Octopus card.

'If I had known, I would not have [kept that card]. It is so cheap. I thought it was all right to use it.'

She told police she did not steal the card but found it on the ground at a bus stop. The card that Ms Delgado found had not been reported missing, but it was a student card, police told her.

Ms Delgado disputed this, saying it looked like any adult Octopus card and it deducted the full fare every time she used it.

'I have not been sleeping since the incident. I am nervous,' Ms Delgado said. 'The police told me it was a minor [offence], but why did they hold me for so long? I was like a criminal that they were guarding.'

Ms Furniss said she was struggling to understand how her helper could be detained for such a long time.

'It seems like a complete waste of time and a waste of taxpayers' money,' she said.

She also questioned why her helper had not been offered a duty lawyer.

Independent lawmaker Regina Ip Lau Suk-yee has confirmed she will look into the matter.

In an e-mail to Ms Furniss, Mrs Ip said the way the police handled the maid's case did seem 'pretty outrageous' and an 'inappropriate use of valuable police resources'.

However, the police defended the length of time taken for the investigation. A spokesman said that as a matter of practice they did not offer duty lawyers for arrested people.

'Police detained the woman for the purpose of completing the necessary investigations,' he said. 'During the detention, she was given time to take meals and rest.

'The woman has been served with the Notice to Persons under Investigation by, or Detained in the Custody of, the Police, both English and Tagalog versions, which listed out the rights of detainees, including being given a list of solicitors. The accused has signed to acknowledge she understood these rights,' the spokesman said.

James To Kun-sun, vice-chairman of the Legislative Council's security panel, sympathised with the police and said they were often dealing with several cases and suspects at once.