Crèche death: ‘I am just so very sorry’

2009-06-19 00:00

FORMER day mother Roshini Hemraj (45), who was convicted yesterday of culpable homicide for causing the death of a nine-month-old baby girl, Saiyona Moonsamy, in a car accident at her Orient Heights crèche, told The Witness yesterday she cannot tell the baby’s family how sorry she is for what happened.

“Please can you tell them I am just so very sorry. I loved Saiyona like my own child,” she said.

Similar sentiments were expressed on her behalf via her legal aid lawyer, Daisy Munsami, in court when Hemraj appeared before magistrate Dieter Schultz.

Both Munsami and prosecutor Ruan du Preez submitted that a wholly suspended term of imprisonment could be a suitable sentence for Hemraj, but the magistrate said he wants to see reports from Hemraj’s psychologist, who is treating her for trauma, before he sentences her.

The case was postponed until July 1 for that purpose.

Hemraj admitted her guilt on Wednesday and told the court she wanted to change her not guilty plea to one of guilty.

Her new attorney yesterday read out a series of admissions made by Hemraj, including her explanation that she accidentally engaged the wrong gear when she decided to move a car from in front of the garage at the crèche, in order to make more space for Saiyon­a, who was learning to walk in a walking ring. Instead of reversing, the car went forward and struck the walking ring, which hooked on the bumper. The baby went under the car.

The accident happened on July 29 last year.

Munsami urged the court to consider what happened as a “tragic accident”, even though Hemraj admits she was negligent and was solely responsible for the baby’s death.

“She [Hemraj] took care of the baby Saiyona from the age of about two months. Her death has had a traumatic effect on the accused. She has lost confidence and her zest for life. All she does is sit and cry,” said Munsami.

She said Hemraj is still undergoing counselling and is taking anti-depressant medication.

Her husband and family have also been severely affected and Hemraj has closed her crèche.

Munsami said the family have suffered under the huge scrutiny they were subjected to.

She added that Hemraj has stayed in contact with Saiyona’s family.

“She is so, so sorry for what happened that words are not enough to describe how she feels,” Munsami said.

Du Preez said in view of the trauma suffered by Hemraj, the fact that she had admitted guilt, was a first offender and in view of a suspended sentence imposed recently in a similar case, the state submitted that a wholly suspended term of imprisonment was appropriate in the case.

ingrido@witness.co.za

 

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