Beaten, starved, tied, burnt and tortured with chilli powder: 'Society failed 3-year-old baby Jamie'

Society failed 3-year-old Jamie who died from "child abuse" at the hands of her mother and grandmother.

This was the opinion of Judge Mohini Moodley in the KwaZulu-Natal High Court in Durban.

Moodley has a tough task during the next week when she decides what sentence to impose on Jamie's mother Patricia Kershnee Ishwarlall who has been found guilty of murder and a raft of other charges relating to the abuse of the little girl and others.

Ishwarlall is facing the music on her own after her mother Salatchie Basanich died of natural causes while awaiting trial in prison.

On Thursday, during arguments presented in sentencing proceedings, the judge noted that a social worker - who was supposed to be monitoring the family - had seemingly failed to notice the extensive injuries on Jamie who had been beaten, starved, burnt with cigarettes, had chilli powder put in her nappy and was tied to her bed at night.

Jamie died four years ago November, after being beaten on her head by Ishwarlall and Basanich. It was the final blow, but experts say the emaciated child would not have lived much longer anyway.

READ: Baby Jamie's mother found guilty of her murder, other charges for abusing her siblings

The judge also noted that in evidence, Jamie's older brother - who cannot be named and who also suffered abuse - had reported this to someone at his school.

"Neighbours also apparently reported it. I understand there is community outrage, yet various stakeholders did not respond. The community needs to look at itself."

The judge also questioned social worker Mahashni Naidoo - who compiled a report on the "best interests" of Ishwarall's surviving three children - as to who was supposed to be monitoring the family prior to Jamie's death.

Naidoo said this was done by a social worker from Chatsworth Child and Family Welfare, who she believed had now resigned.

Naidoo said the children did not want anything to do with their mother and were happy at the children's home. She said they were traumatised and on the anniversary of Jamie's death, the son grieved all over again.

"He says if it was not Jamie it would have been him."

Judge Moodley instructed that Naidoo investigate, and provide a written report to her, on a sexual abuse allegation.

"I tried to find out myself… but doors started shutting. How and why was this allowed to happen?"

Arguing for a sentence of no more than 10 years, advocate Murray Pitman, for Ishwarlall, said while his client was 34 years old, she functioned as someone aged 16 or 17.

"She was raped as a child, she suffered brain damage in a car accident and on top of this, she had a drug habit, and was very sensitive to her mother's manipulation.

"I accept that society wants its pound of flesh… but an element of mercy can be blended in because of the peculiar and heart-wrenching circumstances of her own life."

But senior State advocate Cheryl Naidu said while there were mitigating factors, the extent of the abuse outweighed them.

"She violated every single one of Jamie's constitutional rights. She hated Jamie. We don't know why. And she has shown not one iota of remorse. The sheer horror of what happened to Jamie makes everything else fade into insignificance."

Naidu said aside from the physical and emotional abuse, the "most damning" crime was withholding food from the little girl.

"She took the tea from out of this emaciated little girl's hand and threw it in the sink.

"I would say she deserves no less than 25 years in jail."

Sentence will be passed on November 8.

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