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Pinay accused of stealing blouse acquitted by West Kowloon judge

16 November 2018

A prosecution witness cannot establish the intent of a theft suspect even if close-circuit television footage shows the defendant has taken merchandise and failed to pay for it before leaving a shop.

West Kowloon courthouse.
Thus said a West Kowloon magistrate as he acquitted on Friday, Nov 15, as Filipina domestic helper who was accused of stealing a blouse from a clothing chain outlet in Kowloon in May.

The defendant, Anita S. Villanueva, 57, was blushing with joy and relief after Magistrate Alan Ng Hoi-lun exonerated her because the prosecution could not prove her guilt beyond reasonable doubt.

Ng said Villanueva, 57, has a clear record and was trusted by her employer. Nevertheless, he said the prosecution witness was honest and reliable.

According to the summary of the case read by Ng, the domestic helper and her elderly female employer for eight years, Madame Leng, entered the two-storey 6ixty8ight fashion shop on the second floor of a mall in Prince Edward, Mong Kok, and took the escalator to the first-floor level.

The magistrate, citing evidence given by the first prosecution witness -- a shop attendant--and CCTV footage played back by the prosecution, said Villanueva and her employer went around the shelves checking out the merchandise.

Before they ascended the escalator back to the upper level, Villanueva took a black and white checkered blouse from a shelf and put it in her recyclable shopping bag because she had to support the old woman on the way up.

When they reached the upper level, the employer tugged at the helper’s right arm gesturing her to hurry up and headed for the exit. Confused, the maid forgot about going to the cashier to pay for the clothing.

The shop attendant followed and stopped the maid after the two left the shop. She told Villanueva she had not paid for the clothing in her bag and called the police. The maid was arrested and charged with theft. She was released on police bail.

The Filipina insisted from that moment on that she did not intend to steal the item and was, in fact, set to pay for it at the upper-level cashier when her employer tugged at her.

Villanueva was represented by private lawyers hired by her employer. Throughout the episode, the employer supported Villanueva and kept her on the job.

The prosecution said the CCTV footage showed that, after taking the item, the helper and her employer were leaving the store in haste.

But the defense lawyer said the footage was an inconclusive proof that the defendant intended to steal the blouse, and the magistrate agreed with her.

Ng said neither the CCTV footage nor the store attendant could prove intent or tell what was going on in the mind of the defendant at the time. So, he acquitted Villanueva. 

On her way out of the courthouse with her lawyers, a joyful Villanueva said she loves her employers very much because they had staunchly supported her since the case began, even hiring private lawyers to defend her.

She said she would continue to serve them. 

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