Eastern Magistrates' Court in Hong Kong. Photo: Google Maps

A Filipina maid has alleged that police strip-searched her several times after she was arrested for allegedly stealing money from her employer in early January.

Margie Lotino, aged about 30 and who worked for a family in Pokfulam on Hong Kong Island, was giving evidence during her trial on theft charges in the Eastern Magistrates’ Court on Friday. She complained about a series of alleged strip-searches, sunwebhk.com reported.

Lotino was arrested on Jan. 2 for allegedly stealing HK$500 (US$63) from her employer. She pleaded not guilty and claimed she had been set up.

She said she found the HK$500 banknote on the floor when she was cleaning the master bedroom and put the bill on a cabinet top in the living room and told her employer about it that evening.

The employer reportedly thanked the maid, but reached to pick up the money with a towel, suggesting she did not want her fingerprints on the bill, the maid said. Not long afterwards, police came to the apartment and searched Lotino and her belongings.

During her arrest and the investigation process, female police officers searched Lotino on four separate occasions: first in her employers’ house, the second time at Western Police Station, the third time at Wanchai Police Station and the fourth time back at the Western Police Station, the court heard.

During two separate body searches in the toilet at her employers’ flat, Lotino said various officers took turns ordering her to strip down to her underwear. As one search took place at Western Police Station, a male officer entered the room while she was only wearing a bra and panties.

She claimed an officer told her to admit the crime and she would be sent to the Philippines. As she was cold, hungry and under intense pressure from the repeated body searches and interrogation, Lotino said she signed a cautioned statement admitting the offense.

She identified five female officers who conducted the body searches and one male officer who signed the custody search document during an identification parade at Wanchai Police Station on April 13.

The six officers were called in to give evidence on Friday and four of them answered “disagree” or “I can’t recall” when asked the same questions about the strip-searches. They all told the court they only searched the outer clothes – the Level One stipulated in police guidelines.

Deputy magistrate Simon K F Ho ordered both parties to make written submissions when the hearing resumes on May 6 and extended the defendant’s bail.

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