Baby’s death: Crèche owner admits guilt

2009-06-18 00:00

IN a dramatic twist yesterday, Orient Heights crèche owner Roshini Devi Hemraj (44), charged with culpable homicide arising from the death of a baby in her care last year, told local magistrate Dieter Schultz that she intends to change her not guilty plea to one of guilty.

Her attorney, Nasen Naicker, was given leave to withdraw from the case after he told Schultz there is a conflict of interest between himself and Hemraj and that he has “reservations” about whether or not she voluntarily arrived at the decision to change her plea to guilty.

However, in reply to questions by Schultz later, Hemraj insisted that she freely and voluntarily decided to plead guilty and said she wants to conduct her own defence and go on with the trial.

Schultz explained to her that the charge she faces is serious and that the court could sentence her to imprisonment for up to nine years if she is found guilty, but she was not swayed.

She later elected to appoint a legal aid lawyer and the case was adjourned until today.

Before the adjournment, in reply to questions by the magistrate, Hemraj testified as to what had happened on the day of the incident, and said she was extremely traumatised when she was told at the hospital that the nine-month-old girl, Saiyona Moosamy, had died.

“I was traumatised because I love the children as my own and for something like this to happen was a great shock to me,” she said.

Hemraj explained that she got into a car, which was parked in front of the garage at her crèche in Brixham Road, with the intention of reversing it to make more space for the children to play.

The car was in the “wrong gear” and instead of reversing, she engaged “drive” and the car went forward. She said the baby was in a walking ring, which was held by another child.

She did not describe the collision, but said that after she stopped a neighbour came to help her “take the child out”.

Hemraj said the child was between a bunk in the garage and the side of her car.

When the trial got under way in February this year, Hemraj pleaded not guilty to the charge that she negligently caused the death of the baby on July 29 last year, and she elected to remain silent.

State witnesses called to testify for the prosecution include her neighbours, Vishnu Devsaran and Sushiela Pather. Pather took the baby to Daymed Hospital.

ingrido@witness.co.za

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