x Abu Dhabi, UAE Thursday 20 July 2017

Maid dies 'after being starved and beaten' Dubai court told

A co-worker says their female employer subjected them to cruel punishments, and that her colleague weighed only 38kg when she finally succumbed to the abuse.

DUBAI // A housemaid died after being locked in a room where she was beaten and starved for almost two months, a court heard yesterday.

Prosecutors told the Criminal Court that the incident leading to the death of Khadija Kamel was just one of a list of abuses against two maids working for RM, 45, an Emirati customer service officer.

They said she assaulted the maids regularly, banging their heads on walls and beating them with wooden sticks until they bled.

She watched them through surveillance cameras and found cruel ways to punish them for perceived failures, forcing one to drink a cup of detergent and the other to sniff dirty underwear.

She also forced them to strip and took pictures of them naked with her mobile phone.

The court heard matters came to a head when the woman locked the maids in an upstairs room in which her husband, the Emirati police officer AKH, 42, had installed metal bars across the windows.

She starved them for up to five days at a time, on other occasions giving one of them food and forcing the other to watch.

Both maids developed blood poisoning as a result of the abuse and malnourishment, and eventually Kamel became so weak she could no longer move.

She weighed only 38 kilograms when she died.

IN, 29, the Filipina maid who survived the almost two-month ordeal, arrived in the UAE on October 16 last year to work for the couple, who have four children between the ages of 3 and 11.

She told the Criminal Court that the abuse began as soon as she arrived in their house. She would be given only a cup of tea and a piece of bread for breakfast and lunch, and would be denied dinner.

The couple locked the kitchen door every evening to make sure the maids could not get any more food.

The Filipina said her first job was to accompany the three-year-old son on car journeys.

"She used to leave me and the boy locked in the car for four hours, but with the air-conditioning on, while she used to finish her errands," she recalled.

A week into the job her employer became even more abusive.

"She slapped me on the face for not separating the underwear from the rest of the clothes, and things only got worse … she started hitting me with her hands and feet and with a broom."

The woman told the maids that she and her husband were influential people so they should not dare to complain.

"I thought of running away many times but I could not find the opportunity as she used to lock me inside and never let me leave the house," the Filipina said.

She met Kamel about a month after she started work.

"The employer brought her and asked me to not talk to her," she said.

Shortly afterwards the pair were locked in a bare room on an upper level of the house.

"She used to allow Khadija to sleep on a mattress in the room while she locked me in the bathroom," said the Filipina."In the morning she used to bring in Khadija in the bathroom and lock us in."

One time Kamel was starved for more than five days.

"During this period she provided her only with sugar with water, onion and a small piece of bread," said the Filipina maid.

On another occasion Kamel was allowed to eat while the other maid, also starving, was forced to watch.

"She used to say she can eat because she is Muslim and you have to watch as a punishment because you are Christian," said the Filipina.

Kamel's condition deteriorated and she lost consciousness.

"They then started providing her with food and let me take care of her as she could not move," she said. "I begged them to take her to hospital but they refused."

The Criminal Court charged the woman with confining two people against their will and causing the death of one of them.

She was also charged with physically abusing a third woman - a maid employed by another woman who worked for her temporarily.

Her husband was charged with aiding and abetting her by preparing the room for confinement, and with refusing to offer medical help.

The couple denied the charges. The next hearing was scheduled for July 1.

wissa@thenational.ae