Indian couple in Melbourne allegedly kept woman as slave, threatened to return her to family ‘in a coffin’

A Melbourne couple accused of keeping an illegal immigrant as a slave allegedly threatened to return the woman to her Indian family “in a coffin”.

Kandasamy and Kumuthini Kannan have been charged with keeping a slave at their Mount Waverley home for eight years after taking in a woman aged in her 50s to live with them as a domestic worker.

According to court documents, the woman’s son-in-law contacted the Kannans after he and his wife became aware she was seriously ill in 2015.

The man was verbally abused with “obscene and vulgar words” by Mrs Kannan, who he claimed also demanded money for her return to her home village in Tamil Nadu, Melbourne Magistrates Court has been told.

He claims Mrs Kannan made threats to the woman’s welfare if they did not pay, adding she asked if “they wanted their mother returned in a coffin” .

The phone call came after an alleged email exchange between the Kannans and the woman’s son-in-law in May 2015, when he asked for the return of his wife’s mother.

It is claimed Mrs Kannan replied by email: “Ask her to go f*** herself!!!” and “F*** you!”.

The woman arrived in Australia in 2007 after allegedly being promised a better life and $143 a month – or 8000 rupees – to work in domestic duties for the Kannans.

However, she claims she wasn’t paid and instead was beaten and neglected.

Finally in July 2015, she was taken to Box Hill Hospital by ambulance suffering urinary sepsis, untreated diabetes, hypothermia, skin lesions, and all her teeth had fallen out.

The woman, who cannot be named for legal reasons, gave evidence earlier this week that during her eight years working for the Kannans, she had been beaten more than 10 times.

She said Mrs Kannan hit her with a frozen chicken, poured boiling water on her legs, threw hot tea in her face, and cut her wrist with a knife.

Speaking via an interpreter from India on Wednesday, the woman’s son-in-law said he met the Kannans while they were holidaying in Tamil Nadu, and had sent the woman “wholeheartedly” to work for the couple in Australia.

He denied being in financial difficulty at the time, but agreed the Kannans had sent small amounts of money.

The Kannans are facing a five-day committal hearing which will decide if the matter goes to trial.