Woman jailed for 'shaking and slapping' two-year-old stepdaughter to death

By admin
29 October 2015

A 25-year-old Springs woman was on Thursday sentenced to eight years in jail for negligently causing her two-year-old stepdaughter's death by shaking and slapping her.

Linda Hope said in a plea bargain agreement that she never had any intention to kill her stepdaughter, Christabelle Labuschagne, but realised that she had acted recklessly and not with the necessary care, thereby causing the toddler's death. The tiny blonde girl was in a coma when she was admitted to the N17 hospital in Springs on March 31 last year, where she had to undergo an emergency operation to drain blood from her brain.
'The accused became very angry, scolded her and shook her aggressively out of anger'

Her head injuries were so severe that she was declared brain dead four days later and died two days thereafter because of the severe head and brain injuries she sustained in the assault.

'Realised she had gone too far'

Hope pleaded guilty to a charge of culpable homicide, although she was charged with child abuse and murder.

She appeared calm and did not show much emotion, in contrast to an earlier court appearance when she burst into tears on being asked why she had failed to turn up for her trial.

Christabelle's biological mother, Madelein Labuschagne, told the court she was satisfied with the plea bargain agreement and sentence, but cried through most of the proceedings.

Hope said in a statement that Christabelle was in her sole care and she was watching television after preparing food for the toddler and two other children.

"The deceased played with her food by rubbing it into the carpet. The accused became very angry, scolded her and shook her aggressively out of anger.

"The deceased cried continuously and the accused hit her very forcefully with an open hand, where after the deceased fell backwards and stopped crying.

"The accused immediately realised that she had gone too far and that something was seriously wrong with the deceased. She was unconscious.

"The accused got a fright and picked up the deceased and took her to the bathroom. The accused tried desperately to wake her up with water. (She) did not succeed and phoned her husband... to take them to the hospital as she did not have transport.

"...Even though the accused knew that the deceased's condition was a result of her actions, she told everyone at the hospital that the deceased fell from the couch as she was afraid of what will happen to her if the truth came out," Hope said in a statement.

Unfit to work with children

Judge Mahomed Ismail sentenced Hope, in terms of the agreement, to ten years imprisonment of which two years were conditionally suspended for five years.

She was declared unfit to work with children and her name would be entered into the child protection register.

Hope admitted that her stepdaughter was a defenceless toddler and that the two children who witnessed the incident would need psychological help.

The plea bargain agreement acknowledged that the child's parents and family were devastated by her loss.

Christabelle's mother said in a letter that she had loved her daughter even before she held her for the first time and still longed for her child, which was a battle she fought daily.

She had sent her little girl to visit her father and she never returned home. She had to lay her down in a little pink and white coffin.

She was still angry because Hope had never apologised for what she did.

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