Jail woman who murdered child - so she can get help, says social worker

A mother who murdered her newborn child and tried to hide the body in a can of paint should receive counselling in jail, a social worker recommends.
A mother who murdered her newborn child and tried to hide the body in a can of paint should receive counselling in jail, a social worker recommends.
Image: Shutterstock via The Conversation

A social worker has recommended a brief prison sentence, followed by correctional supervision, for a Tembisa mother who murdered her newborn child and tried to hide the body in a full can of paint.

The mother, who is in her early 20s, appeared in the high court in Johannesburg this week for sentencing proceedings, where probation officer Sinethemba Nkosi made her recommendations.

The woman was arrested in October 2016 at her home in Klipfontein.

At the time, she claimed she had had a miscarriage.

She insisted that the reason she hid the infant’s body, which was wrapped in plastic and a jacket, and put into a 20-litre tin of paint, was that in her confusion and panic, she was trying to keep the baby’s body safe from rats and intended to bury the child at a later stage.

Her version was rejected by the court and she was convicted in November 2018 of murder and concealment of death.

The probation officer’s report was constructed after interviews with the woman and her mother.

Nkosi’s report was sympathetic to the young woman, saying “she assisted herself to give birth. One can only imagine how traumatic that experience could be.

“Therefore, one must also imagine the duty of having to take a decision in such a state of disorientation. Even though this does not validate her actions, it is important to consider the thought process of a young woman in a desperate situation,” she wrote.

“It is recommended that the accused is subjected to a sentence which will assist her to realise the seriousness of her actions, thus becoming rehabilitated through exposure to programmes.

“She would also benefit from exposure and empowerment programmes, as well as counselling after the ordeal she went through,” the report continued.

Nkosi recommended that the court sentence the young woman to prison, where she could attend such programmes, followed by correctional supervision.

Prosecutor Jacqui Drotsky was sceptical of the report, claiming it was one-sided, as Nkosi had failed to consult the prosecution or the investigating officer.

Nkosi admitted this, but said her recommendations were based on the fact that the court had found the accused guilty of murder, a serious offence.

The trial continues.


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