"so that your dirty secret was maintained."
An Australian couple have been jailed for secretly enslaving a woman in their home for eight years.
Kumuthini Kannan and her husband Kandasamy were sentenced at Victoria’s Supreme Court on July 21, 2021, for keeping the victim at their Mount Waverley home in Melbourne.
However, the couple still did not accept that they forced the grandmother into servitude.
Their legal team has indicated that they may be preparing an appeal.
The victim, from Tamil Nadu in India, worked twice for the couple under an “arrangement” made through her son-in-law.
On both occasions, she was allowed to return to India.
However, on her third visit in 2007, she was enslaved by the Kannans and forced to cook, clean and care for their children for eight years.
The victim was paid around $3.39 a day.
Justice John Champion said the woman allowed the Australian couple to maintain their jobs and their lifestyle, including holidays abroad.
In 2015, the victim’s family became increasingly concerned about her welfare. Victoria Police subsequently conducted a welfare check.
But the Kannans told the officer that they had not seen the woman since 2007.
In reality, the woman had been admitted to hospital under a fake name after Kumuthini found her shivering in a pool of urine.
Paramedics found that the victim weighed just 40kg and her temperature dropped to 28.5°C. She had no teeth, had diabetes and septicaemia.
Justice Champion said: “Mrs Kannan called triple-0 for assistance, but not before deciding to take your children to a school concert, leaving [the woman] on the bathroom floor.
“You told a litany of lies designed to mislead and distance yourself and your husband from the true circumstances of the person who had been admitted to hospital.”
The woman spent two months in hospital recovering.
She later told authorities that she was beaten with a frozen chicken, burned with hot water and only had an hour’s rest every night.
In a police interview, the victim said she had no option but to do what the Australian couple wanted.
However, she did not provide a victim impact statement.
Justice Champion told the couple: “Slavery is regarded as a crime against humanity.
“Your offending occurred in the daily presence and with the obvious knowledge and comprehension of your children.
“You set them a deplorable example of how parents should act towards another human being.
“Her life was controlled largely in the privacy of your own home and care was taken by you to keep her true status from others in your community… so that your dirty secret was maintained.
“This court publicly condemns you both for your disgraceful conduct.”
The victim was “uneducated, illiterate and vulnerable” and her life was “dominated” by financial struggle and deprived circumstances.
Justice Champion slammed the couple:
“The number and brazen quality of the lies has been nothing short of astonishing.
“I’m quite convinced that you both believe you have done nothing wrong.
“Neither of you have shown remorse or contrition.
“You both grossly exploited a vulnerable person for which you should be ashamed.”
The victim, who is now aged 67, now lives in an aged care facility in Melbourne’s suburbs and continues to suffer long-term health issues.
Justice Champion said Kumuthini was more morally culpable for enslaving the victim while her husband was more “at arm’s length”.
However, he accepted that she suffered from a major depressive disorder and anxiety.
Justice Champion also took into account that Kandasamy had recently been diagnosed with autism and suffered from depression following the guilty verdict.
Kumuthini Kannan, aged 53, was jailed for eight years. She will be eligible for parole in four years.
Kandasamy Kannan, aged 57, was sentenced to six years in prison. He will be eligible for parole in three years.
Prosecutors now want the court to order the couple to repay the woman for years of servitude