Melbourne couple who kept slave, who weighed just 40kg, jailed

Publish Date
Thu, 22 Jul 2021, 3:15PM
Kandasamy and Kumuthini Kannan were jailed for their crimes in keeping a slave. Photo / News Corp Australia
Kandasamy and Kumuthini Kannan were jailed for their crimes in keeping a slave. Photo / News Corp Australia

Melbourne couple who kept slave, who weighed just 40kg, jailed

Publish Date
Thu, 22 Jul 2021, 3:15PM

A Melbourne couple have been jailed for keeping a slave hidden in their home for eight years in what was described in court as a "dirty secret".

Kumuthini Kannan and her husband Kandasamy were sentenced in the Supreme Court of Victoria on Wednesday for keeping the woman as a slave in their Mount Waverley home.

Kannan was ordered to spend eight years behind bars while Mr Kannan was jailed for six years.

The 53-year-old woman and her 57-year-old husband were found guilty of intentionally possessing and exercising the right of ownership over a slave between 2007 and 2015.

The slave was discovered when Kannan was forced to call paramedics after finding the Indian grandmother shivering in a pool of urine in July 2015.

But she only called the ambulance after taking her children to a school concert.

When paramedics found the victim she weighed just 40kg and her temperature dropped to 28.5C. She had no teeth and doctors found she had diabetes and septicaemia.

"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," Justice John Champion said in his sentence.

The judge said the couple controlled almost all aspects of the woman's life and slammed their behaviour.

"You both grossly exploited a vulnerable person for which you should be ashamed," Justice Champion said.

The victim spent two months in hospital recovering and at 67 lives in an aged care facility in Melbourne's suburbs. She will have to use a catheter for the rest of her life.

During much of her time in hospital no one knew the victim's true identity with the couple keeping up a "litany of lies" to stop authorities discovering the truth.

"You [Mrs Kannan] 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 the hospital," Justice Champion said.

The couple did not reveal the woman's whereabouts when police questioned the pair at the request of the grandmother's relatives.

"This approach to police and what you said to them was an example of pitiless and heartless conduct on the part of you both," Justice Champion said.

The victim was "uneducated, illiterate and vulnerable" and there was a significant power imbalance between her and the husband and wife, the judge said.

Hers was a life "dominated" by financial struggle and deprived circumstances, Justice Champion told the court.

The woman arrived on a 30-day tourist visa and was forced to cook, clean and care for the couple's children for roughly $3.39 per day.

He said slavery was a "crime against humanity" and was "repugnant" and degrading to the human condition.

The grandmother told the jury she had been beaten with a frozen chicken, had hot water poured on her, was cut and only had an hour's rest every night.

The woman, from the Tamil Nadu province in India, worked twice before for the couple on separate occasions before she was enslaved on her third visit in 2007.

Initially an "arrangement" was made through her son-in-law under which she would perform domestic duties and care for the couple's children in return for payment.

In a taped police interview aired to the jury, the woman said she had no option but to do what the husband and wife wanted.

"What can I do, helpless," the victim said in her taped interview.

But the woman did not provide a statement about the impact of the crime for the sentence and had "said all she wanted to say", the court was told.

The judge slammed the couple's actions and said neither had shown any remorse or regret for their actions.

"On behalf of the Australian community this court condemns you for your disgraceful conduct," the judge said.

He also said they set a "deplorable example" for their three children.

The judge found Kannan was more morally culpable for the crime but accepted she suffered from a major depressive disorder and anxiety.

The wife was in charge of the household and told the victim what to do while her husband had a "peripheral and passive" role within the house, Justice Champion said.

He also took into account that Kandasamy had been recently diagnosed with autism and suffered from depression following the jury's verdict.

Kandasamy will be eligible for parole in three years and his wife will be eligible after four years.

Text by Caroline Schelle,