North West couple in court on murder charge after 4-month-old baby dies of malnutrition

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Photo: Getty Images
  • A couple has been charged with murdering their 4-month-old baby.
  • The child was removed from their care by a social worker and admitted to hospital.
  • The baby died in hospital from complications related to malnutrition.

A couple charged with murdering their 4-month-old baby has appeared in the Klerksdorp Magistrate's Court. The child alleged died due to complications related to malnutrition.

Advocate Riekie Kraus said the State intended to transfer the matter to the North West High Court. An indictment will be sent to the office of the acting Director of Public Prosecutions in North West to authorise the transfer, said National Prosecuting Authority spokesperson Henry Mamothame.

Seun Joubert, 44, and Isabelle Francis, 35, from Alabama in Klerksdorp, appeared in court on Monday. They have been in a relationship for 15 years and have four children – two boys, aged 2 and 5, and two girls, aged 8 and 13.

"It is alleged that in May 2021 Francis was arrested for assaulting her 2-year-old boy, but was later released as she was, at that time, breastfeeding the deceased, who was born on 24 April 2021. Police reported the incident to the North West Department of Social Development for social workers to intervene. The intervention led to four of the kids being placed under the care of their maternal grandmother," Mamothame said.

In September, Francis was arrested again for allegedly assaulting her 13-year-old daughter at her mother's house. She allegedly hit her with clenched fists, kicked her and threw her on the ground, Mamothame said. Francis allegedly also assaulted her mother.

READ | 'We want to make child abuse history': How this father saves children from 'horrendous' situations

"Police investigations into this assault led them to the discovery that the 4-month-old baby had died on 13 August 2021 in Klerksdorp hospital. This information was declared by Leon Francis, the uncle of Isabelle Francis. The [investigators] further discovered that in June 2021 [Isabelle] Francis forcefully took back her two sons from her mother to stay with her and Joubert," said Mamothame.

The incident was reportedly raised with the designated social worker.

"A report received from the social worker indicates that on 9 August 2021, when he took some groceries to the house of the accused, he found the 2-year-old boy in a bad state of health, with sores all over his face," said Mamothame.

The social worker returned the following day and reportedly found the baby by herself, lying on a bed without a blanket.

READ | Woman accused of chaining a child to a bed conducts own defence as trial finally begins

"He alleges the baby looked emaciated. He then rushed to collect his wife to assist him with the baby before taking her home with them," said Mamothame.

On 10 August 2021, the baby was immediately admitted to Klerksdorp hospital after the social worker took her to the hospital. She died three days later.

"The attending paediatrician confirmed that she died of complications of malnutrition as she was not fed adequately," said Mamothame.

Francis was arrested on 16 September and Joubert on 21 October. They were both charged with murder and five other counts. The court denied them bail, and they will remain in police custody until the completion of the trial.

The case was postponed to 17 January 2022 for further investigation.

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