GEORGE TOWN: The couple who allegedly starved their Cambodian maid to death last year can now heave a sigh of relief when they escaped the noose when the court amended the initial charge from murder to culpable homicide.
Judge Datuk Zamani Abdul Rahim ruled that the prosecution had failed to prove a prima facie case under the initial charge under Section 302 of the Penal Code for murder, which carries a mandatory death sentence upon conviction, after studying both the prosecution and defence submissions on March 18.
He said that, however, the prosecution succeeded in proving a prima facie case against the couple under a new section, Section 304(a) of the Penal Code for culpable homicide or unintentionally causing death, which carries a maximum of 30 years in jail upon conviction.
The couple claimed trial to the new charge but the defence counsel, Michael K.L. Chee was yet to call for defence witnesses yesterday.
Zamani fixed April 25 for the court to hear from the defence witnesses.
Soh Chew Tong, 43, and his wife, Chin Chui Ling, 41, were originally jointly charged with the murder of Mey Sichan, 24, a Cambodian national, in 2190, Taman Asas Murni, Jalan Bukit Minyak.
Mey had been working for the couple since September 2011 and her body was found on a bed in a store room on the second floor of the business premises belonging to both the accused on April 4 last year.
During the last hearing, prosecution witness Penang Hospital Forensic Department head Datuk Dr Zahari Noor testified that the maid had a Mass Body Index of 11.9, way below the minimum BMI of under 16 category, which depicted "severe thinness".