SINGAPORE — A domestic helper accused of mixing her menstrual blood and urine into her former employer’s food claimed trial on Monday (23 August), with her male employer testifying that he had received messages from her ex-boyfriend allegedly alerting him to the incidents.
Canares Rowena Ola, a 44-year-old Filipina, however, denied ever committing the offences and claimed through her lawyer that she had lied to her ex-boyfriend about the disgusting acts. She claimed trial to one count of mischief.
The male employer, who took the stand as the first prosecution witness on Monday, was unable to pinpoint the date or time that the acts were allegedly committed, as the food was consumed long before the police report was made in December 2019.
The software engineer cannot be named due to a gag order protecting his identity. The prosecution applied for the gag order due to the nature of the crime, which might cause embarrassment to the alleged victim or his family.
The court heard from the male employer that the family employed Canares in May 2017. The family had no complaints with regard to her performance until the alleged incident came to light. She stayed in her own room within the flat, which she shared with the man, his wife, their two young children, and the man’s mother in law.
Canares was tasked to care of her employer’s children, and to cook the family’s three meals. She was free to buy any ingredients she wanted, and would at times cook her own food, while cooking separately for the family.
Asked by the prosecution why he decided to lodge a complaint, the man said that around 11.14pm on 15 December 2019, he received a message from an unknown number. He recognised the man in the display picture as the maid’s ex-boyfriend, as Canares had shown him his picture before.
“He sent messages saying that she put menstrual blood and urine in the family’s food. Then I was shocked, he sent a message to both me and my wife," he said. The ex-boyfriend has since died.
As it was late, the man did not confront Canares, but went to the police station to lodge a complaint. About an hour or two later, two police officers arrived at his house to investigate the matter. The officers woke Canares to speak to her.
“At one point of time she mentioned that she did it…I heard she had done it, mixing these two things into our food, and she said ‘sorry’ many times to me and my wife,” he added.
One or two days later, the man said that he and his wife questioned the maid on why and how she mixed her menstrual blood and urine into their food. He was, however, unable to get specific details.
He also asked if she would do the same thing to her own children, and she said “no sir, no sir”.
He ended up throwing his and his wife lunch boxes away, as well as some utensils.
While she was under investigation, Canares was no longer made to do chores, but continued staying with the man as the man could not find her alternative living arrangements, despite approaching the Philippines Embassy. Asked why he did so, the man said he was “scared” that she was in his residence.
“I was hoping that they can do something about her stay. Either in Singapore or somewhere else, I was hoping that she was out of my house as soon as possible.”
The helper remained in his residence but kept mostly to her room and was not allowed to enter the kitchen alone, even though she was free to move around and out of the house. On 26 December 2019, the man took her to the police station for an interview, and had not seen her since then.
Canares’ lawyer Kalaithasan Karuppaya, however, argued that the maid never mixed her menstrual blood or urine into the family’s food, and that she had lied to her ex-boyfriend.
In reply, the man said, “It’s not just these messages, they were not just the starting point, but after that she accepted (responsibility for the offences by saying so) to me and my wife many times, she apologised many times. Repeatedly she has accepted (responsibility by) saying ‘sorry sorry sorry sorry’.”
However, Karuppaya maintained that his client was simply apologising generally for the inconvenience caused to her employers.
“I put it to you, my instruction, what she has told me, she apologised…she say ‘sorry sir sorry ma’am’, to you on 15 December 2019 for causing you all trouble in the middle of the night,” said the lawyer. The man responded that he had “no opinion” about that statement.
The lawyer added that on the day her two employers confronted her on how and why she had allegedly done the act, the maid was afraid of the man and hence did not deny doing the act.
“You spoke to her in angry tone and she was afraid to answer to you. She was scared to answer you,” said Karuppaya.
The man denied using an angry tone, saying the maid was seated comfortably.
Karuppaya continued, “Whatever answers she has provided, is given to you, were untrue and given in a confused state. She was confused out of fear,” said the lawyer. The man replied that he could not answer to the maid’s feelings at that point in time.
On how his family felt after the alleged incident, the man said they no longer hired a domestic helper and the chores were shared between the three adults.
“We did not want to trust a third (party) in our house with our food from then on,” he said.
An investigation officer who handled the case testified that he had spoken to Canares' ex-boyfriend and took his statement at a hospital on 20 January last year, where the ex-boyfriend was warded for stage four cancer. This was after he received information that the ex-boyfriend was the one who had asked her to mix her blood and urine into her employer's food.
"He denied any involvement, it was just a conversation he had with the accused stating that she did put her menstrual blood and urine into her employer's food," said the IO.
The trial continues on Monday.
If convicted of committing mischief, Canares may be jailed up to two years, or fined, or both.