Joanna Demafelis loved life. She took hundreds of selfies and posted them all over social media. So it was unusual when she stopped.
Her family grew worried about the maid from the Philippines who had moved to Kuwait to support them. Their fears turned out to be justified.
In February this year, a full 12 months after she went missing, Demafelis’ body was discovered inside a freezer in an abandoned apartment where she’d worked for a Lebanese man and his Syrian wife.
The sixth of nine children had moved overseas in 2014 like many young Filipino women do to help their families survive. They were struggling to repair the battered family home after Typhoon Haiyan tore through.
She would call family routinely and never complained. But when the calls stopped, her family went to authorities.
The Lebanese-Syrian couple was arrested in February in the Syrian capital Damascus following an Interpol manhunt.
Syrian authorities handed the husband, Nader Essam Assaf, over to Lebanese authorities, while his Syrian wife remained in custody in Damascus.
On Sunday, the pair was sentenced in absentia to hang for their crimes, but the fallout has impacted an entire country.
Philippines President Rodrigo Duterte responded to Demafelis’ death by banning the deployment of Filipino workers to Kuwait, though that won’t affect the more than 250,000 Filipinos still working in the oil-rich nation.