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Pinay helper denies setting up employer to bathe her baby with bleach-tainted water

01 February 2019

By Vir B. Lumicao

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The building that houses Shatin Court 

A judge in Shatin Court has reserved his verdict in the case of a Filipina helper accused of deliberately leaving a bottle of bleach-tainted water in the bathroom which her employer then used to bathe her six-month-old baby.

Merlyn Ando has denied she intended to hurt the infant because of a grudge she held against her employer, Charlotte Chan.

Ando's fate will be known on Feb. 15. 

She was arrested by police and charged with “Ill-treatment by those in charge of a child or young person” after Chan blamed her for the incident on Aug. 13 last year.

On the second and final day of the trial on Feb 1, Ando took the witness stand to answer questions about what had led to the mother accidentally bathing her daughter with the tainted water.

Also testifying this day was Chang Yu, a doctor at Prince of Wales Hospital in Shatin who had treated the baby after the incident. He said the infant bore no signs of injury apart from a redness on her arm and side.

Chan had accused Ando of intending to cause harm by placing a plastic bottle filled with Chlorox solution beside a bottle of Johnson’s baby shower gel on a rack for baby toiletries. The employer had poured the tainted liquid into the baby’s bath, thinking it was the shower gel.

She said Ando was to leave her flat the following day after resigning from her job, and had set up the incident in retaliation. The Filipina had worked for Chan for one and a half years, starting in February 2017.

In her testimony, Ando said she paid Chan a month’s wage for breaking her contract but the employer demanded  another month’s pay supposedly for “damages.”

At the prompting of her counsel, John Murray, Ando recounted that she was cleaning the bathroom that fateful day, and had brought with her a purple plastic bottle of baby bath that was filled with a 50-50 mix of water and bleach that she used to remove stains.

Ando told Murray she used that bottle instead of the original bleach bottle as it was easier to squeeze and safer because the fluid didn’t leak on her hand. She normally kept the bottle in the kitchen.

The maid said she had just sprayed the stained tub when Chan called and ordered her to fetch her eldest child, a 4-year-old boy, from the ground floor.

Ando had resumed her work when Chan called again and told her to get the baby’s milk from the car and put it in the refrigerator. Shortly later, Chan arrived and reportedly brought up again the matter of who would lend Ando money to pay for the supposed damages in her house.

Chan reportedly got angry when Ando said her cousin had not yet given the money.

After this, Chan told Ando to get the baby and take her to the bathroom. Ando said she was confused by the overlapping errands that she forgot about her work in the bathroom.

When she looked inside the bathroom Ando said Chan was already bathing the baby in the tub. Chan then asked why the water wasn’t bubbling. “I said I didn’t know why because I didn’t prepare the bath.”

Chan asked what was in the purple bottle and Ando did not reply. Another Filipina helper who was in the house and was hired to replace Ando answered, “That’s bleach.”

Ando said Chan took the baby from the tub right away and gave her to her husband, then pulled the maid’s hair three times saying “I killed her child. I told her ‘I did not kill your child. Sorry, it was an accident’.”  

Cross examining Ando, prosecutor James Cheng told her she deliberately put the purple bottle next to the baby gel so Chan would likely use it to prepare the bath. The maid replied it was only on that day that she put it there because she was cleaning.

“I put it to you that you deliberately did not tell your employer there was bleach in the purple bottle because you hold a grudge against her,” Cheng told Ando, but the Filipina replied her focus was only on the money that Chan was demanding.

Cheng insisted in his submission that the helper was lying and that she bore a grudge against Chan, so she tried to get even by harming the baby.

Murray said the intent was not established. He asked why Ando would do something that would put her in trouble just a day before she was to leave for home.

Ando was returned to custody pending the verdict.

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