Mother who allegedly killed her baby with boiling water is fit to stand trial

2018-03-20 18:31
High Court. (Duncan Alfreds, News24)

High Court. (Duncan Alfreds, News24)

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Durban - A Durban mom, who allegedly killed her 11-month-old baby by pouring boiling water over her while she slept, is fit to stand trial, a panel of four psychiatrists has found.

Hairdresser Buhle Memela, 32, lived with her mother in Clermont. Her baby Nosipho Angel was sleeping with her biological father, Thabiso Mthalane, in an outbuilding on the same premises on the night of the incident.

The State alleges that, in the early hours of June 12, 2015, Memela boiled a kettle of water, went to the outbuilding, and poured the boiling water on the baby’s upper body.

The infant was hospitalised, but died four days later from her injuries.

According to specialist reports handed into the Durban High Court, Memela was sent for mental observation after she behaved strangely, "wanting to remove her clothes and either laughing or crying," when she made her first court appearance.

The specialists reported that she had started presenting with a mental illness (bipolar disorder) in 2001. She was admitted to hospital several times, the last occasion being in 2013 when she was pregnant. She stopped her medication in March 2015 because of the side effects.

"She says she has now fully recovered and can remember all that happened at the time of the crime, which she has denied," psychiatrist Dr A Houidi said.

Dr SV Moodley, also a psychiatrist, reported that Memela was co-operative and gave a consistent account of events.

"No odd behaviour was observed in the ward. She interacted with others and participated in ward activities.

"The accused does not suffer from a mental illness, to the degree that she is not capable of understanding court proceedings so as to provide an adequate defence.

"The available information is inadequate to comment on the mental state of the accused and the capacity to appreciate the wrongfulness of her actions and act in accordance with that appreciation," Moodley said.

'Her memory and her judgment are not impaired'

However, Professor D L Mkize went one step further and said that Memela could appreciate the wrongfulness of the crime.

"She is aware of the charge against her, but denies it. Her memory and her judgment are not impaired."

In his report, a fourth psychiatrist, Dr B Brayshaw, said Memela was able to follow court proceedings and communicate with her legal representatives.

He did, however, issue a word of caution.

"Sufferers of bipolar disorder have fluctuating moods and relapses can be brought on by stress, including the stress of being charged with a serious offence. It is not possible to predict exactly what her mental state will be during the trial.

"Her condition is long standing… there is a strong possibility that she was mentally ill at the time of the alleged offence," he said.

Memela, who is out on bail, made a brief court appearance in the Durban High Court on Tuesday. A formal inquiry into her fitness to stand trial will be held in August, when all the experts are expected to testify.

Read more on:    durban  |  crime

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