A four-person jury is set to begin deliberation on an inquest into the death of a Filipina domestic worker who died in Hong Kong in 2017.

Leonita Arcillas Quinto, who arrived in Hong Kong in December 2016, died on April 4, 2017. The 46-year-old was found unconscious in her room at her employer’s place around noon, and was pronounced dead at Princess Margaret Hospital later that day.

West Kowloon Magistrates' Courts
West Kowloon Law Courts Building. Photo: Candice Chau/HKFP.

The inquest into Quinto’s death, which began last Tuesday, continued in front of a four-person jury at the Coroner’s Court at the West Kowloon Law Courts Building on Tuesday.

Scheduled to last seven days, the inquiry entered its final stages as the court heard concluding remarks from the barristers, as well as jury instructions from Coroner Stanley Ho.

Working condition complaints

During the inquest, the Quinto’s younger sister testified via video interview that the 46 year old had complained about her working conditions, saying that her employer often asked her to work until midnight, and that she had to wake up at 3 a.m. to prepare school kits for her employer’s children.

The younger sister also testified that Quinto said her employer would often scold her, causing “immense stress.” Quinto once said that “her heart felt like exploding,” the court heard.

The employer was also accused of prohibiting Quinto from changing her sanitary products during menstruation, instead asking Quinto to do so in a public toilet.

The younger Quinto also told the court that her older sister was asked to eat only after completing all her tasks, and that the 46-year-old often bought her own biscuits and milk because she did not trust the food provided by her employer.

A friend of Quinto, Mananquil Rio Borlasa, also testified in court, saying that she met Quinto in early 2017. Borlasa said that Quinto often had dropped shoulders and walked at a slow pace, adding that she was “visibly” weak.

Prior to working in Hong Kong, Quinto worked in Bahrain and Singapore. The 46-year-old suffered from meningitis when she was 20 years old. Quinto also previously underwent two surgeries to remove cysts from her back and chest.

stanley ho chun yiu
Stanley Ho Chun-yiu.

The court also heard a testimony from Mr Lee, the owner of domestic worker employment agency Popular Employment Services, who said that Quinto once called him to complain about her working conditions.

Quinto decided to terminate her contract in March, giving her employer’s one-month notice. She died before she was able to return home to the Philippines.

Lee said that Quinto and her employer went to his office to handle the procedures, during which Quinto complained about her working conditions again. Lee testified that the employer, Wong, “scolded loudly” and said that the 46-year-old’s work was unsatisfactory.

Employers’ and doctors’ testimonies

Wong and her husband, Hui, did not appear in court as they left Hong Kong in February. The pair’s written statements were read out in court. The coroner, when delivering instructions to the jury on Tuesday, told them not to speculate why the employers did not testify in court.

According to Wong ‘s testimony, Quinto had stayed at home after cooking breakfast on April 4, 2017. Wong said she had reminded the 46-year-old at around 7.30 a.m. that it was a public holiday, and thus she had the day off, and Quinto, with her back facing Wong, waved at her from the bed.

At around 11 a.m., Hui told Wong to call the police after he found Quinto unconscious in her room after she did not answer his knocks on the door.

The court heard also from two doctors.  Forensic pathologist Ng Chung-ki, who conducted Quinto’s post-mortem, said that there was no explanation as to why the 46-year-old died suddenly, and that Quinto’s organs had appeared to be functioning normally.

Another doctor, Philip Beh, said in court that Quinto showed no obvious signs of starvation, and that there was no evidence to suggest that Quinto had died of malnutrition.

The hearing continues on Wednesday.

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Candice is a reporter at Hong Kong Free Press. She previously worked as a researcher at a local think tank. She has a BSocSc in Politics and International Relations from the University of Manchester and a MSc in International Political Economy from London School of Economics.