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Filipina Rowena Ola Canares, 44, is accused of mixing her urine and menstrual blood into food meant for the occupants of a Sengkang flat. — TODAY pic
Filipina Rowena Ola Canares, 44, is accused of mixing her urine and menstrual blood into food meant for the occupants of a Sengkang flat. — TODAY pic

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SINGAPORE, Aug 23 — A 44-year-old domestic worker, accused of mixing some of her urine and menstrual blood into her employer’s food, began standing trial in the State Courts on Monday (Aug 23).

Rowena Ola Canares, a Filipina, is contesting one charge of committing mischief.

Her employer, a software engineer who cannot be named due to a gag order to protect his identity, took the stand on Monday morning to describe how he had learnt about the alleged offences when Canares’ ex-boyfriend sent him text messages over WhatsApp. 

But her lawyer argues she had lied to the ex-boyfriend about the acts, and had not in fact committed the offence.

Her ex-boyfriend has since died after battling advanced stage cancer.

Canares began working for the family in May 2017. Her contract was renewed two years later for another two years. 

She cooked most of their meals in their Sengkang flat and sometimes took care of the employer’s children, now aged about seven and three, his wife and mother-in-law. 

Canares worked from about 6.30am to 10pm daily and usually got Sundays off, her employer testified.

The night of the discovery

The employer told the court that at about 11.15pm on December 15, 2019, he received a WhatsApp message from an unknown number. 

But he recognised Canares’ ex-boyfriend in the profile picture because the maid had previously shown him and his wife a photo of the man.

“He sent a message (to both me and my wife) saying she had put menstrual blood and urine in the family’s food. I was shocked,” the employer said.

Screenshots of text messages, which the ex-boyfriend had sent to the employer, were produced in court, showing Canares telling her ex-boyfriend: “Before the holiday in India, one time I do.” 

The employer explained that the family had gone on vacation in August that year for about two weeks.

That same night, the employer and his wife went to a nearby police station to report the matter. 

Two police officers then turned up at their home and spoke to her.

“At one point, when the officers investigated, I heard that she mentioned she had done it, mixed those two things in my food. She said, ‘Sorry sir, sorry ma’am’, many times. Of course, we did not accept her apologies,” the employer testified.

Canares was not arrested that evening. She stayed in their home for several days till December 26, when an investigation officer told the employer to take her to Woodlands Police Division headquarters.

He could not take her to a maid agency as he had hired her directly, he said.

Said ‘sorry, sorry, sorry’

Canares’ lawyer, Kalaithasan Karuppaya, then cross-examined him about the incident.

The employer conceded that he did not know exactly when Canares might have mixed her blood and urine into the family’s food, and that Canares’ ex-boyfriend was the only source of information he had about the incident.

He noted that when the police officers first came to their home, Canares had repeatedly apologised to him and his wife. 

But Kalaithasan put it to him that she was apologising for causing inconvenience to them and not for mixing her blood and urine in their food.

The employer disagreed and added that a few days later, he and his wife had questioned Canares, who did not deny committing the offence.

He told the court that she said she had put her blood and urine in his and his wife’s lunch boxes.

“I asked her whether she would do these things to her own kids, her own family. She said no, sorry, sorry, sorry,” he told the court. “Why she did it, I don’t think we got an answer. How she did it, where she put it — to some extent, we got an answer.”

Kalaithasan argued that Canares had not denied the offence as she was afraid of him, and that her answers had been “given in a confused state”. 

“I cannot describe her feelings so I have no opinion,” the employer responded.

Kalaithasan also asked if his family had suffered health issues when Canares worked for them. 

He responded that his children had had diarrhoea from time to time, but he could not correlate this to her alleged offence.

An investigation officer took the stand after the employer, telling the court that he had interviewed Canares’ ex-boyfriend in St Luke’s Hospital before he died.

The officer said he had received information that Canares was unhappy and the ex-boyfriend had told her to commit the offence, but the other man denied any involvement.

The trial continues in the afternoon.

If convicted of mischief, Canares could be jailed for up to two years or fined, or both. — TODAY

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