19 June 2017

Namibia: Babysitter On Trial Over Boy's Death

Photo: [paumelia]/Flickr
(File photo).

A woman accused of having murdered a baby who died after he had been in her care denied guilt when she went on trial in the Windhoek Regional Court last week.

The trial of Magdalena Naris (30) started on Thursday, with Naris pleading not guilty to a charge in which she is accused of having murdered the one-year-old Hope Mbimuii Uhongora in Khomasdal, Windhoek, on 22 February 2015. Naris had been looking after the boy and other children at his grandmother's house in Khomasdal during the day preceding his death, the court has heard.

Hope died of a laceration to his liver, a medical doctor who carried out a post-mortem examination on him recorded in an autopsy report that has become part of the evidence in the trial before magistrate Ileni Velikoshi.

The fatal injury was caused by blunt force trauma, which also resulted in fractures to Hope's rib cage cartilage, the doctor further stated in the autopsy report.

Naris is categorically denying that she was responsible for the injuries that claimed Hope's life, defence lawyer Max Lameck told the boy's mother, Emily Muundjua, when she testified as the prosecution's third witness in the trial on Friday.

Muundjua's answer was that nobody saw Naris doing anything to Hope, and that it would be for the court to decide if she is guilty or not.

Muundjua also found herself facing an accusation from Lameck that she, and not Naris, had caused the fatal injuries to her child.

Lameck based that charge on a claim that it was impossible for Muundjua not to have noticed bruises to Hope's chest, which were some of the injuries recorded during the autopsy, before he was taken to a hospital on the evening of his death - unless she in actual fact inflicted those injuries.

Muundjua at first answered Lameck by asking him if he could prove that the fatal injuries had been caused by her. She also asked him with what she had supposedly inflicted the injuries, before indicating that it was inconceivable that she would have carried her child through nine months of pregnancy and raised him, only to then kill him.

Muundjua testified that she found Hope lying covered in his blankets in the sitting room of her mother's house when she returned after a weekend she had spent out of town.

She said she went to lie next to him for a few minutes, but realised that his breathing was not normal, and then asked Naris if he was ill. Naris answered that he was not ill, but that he had vomited earlier.

Muundjua said she took the boy to her mother's room, where she lay with him on a bed, but he was restless and at times screamed strangely, as if he had a pain inside.

She gave him some Panado syrup, but that did not seem to help, Muundjua said. She also looked under his clothing to see if there were any marks on his body, but did not see anything, she said. His temperature was normal, she added.

With Hope's condition appearing to be worsening, her mother decided that they should take him to a hospital, Muundjua said.

While they were arranging transport, she realised that his heartbeat was weak, and that he seemed to be dying, Muundjua recounted.

She said her mother went to wake up Naris, who was asked if anything had happened to Hope, but she did not answer and instead went back to sleep.

"We were there struggling with a baby who was on the verge of dying, and the nanny did not seem to care or sympathise with us," Muundjua remarked.

With the help of her mother's landlady, they got Hope to a hospital.

They first went to Windhoek Central Hospital, but there they were told to go to Katutura Intermediate Hospital instead, Muundjua said. By the time they got to the second hospital, it was too late. Shortly after their arrival at Katutura Intermediate Hospital, they were told that Hope had died, Muundjua testified.

She further told the court that Naris still looked unconcerned, and again went back to sleep when she was again woken up and told the news of Hope's death after their return to her mother's house.

Naris was denying those claims by Muundjua, Lameck indicated.

The trial is due to continue on 4 July. According to public prosecutor Erastus Hatutale, two more state witnesses will be called to testify.

Naris is free on bail of N$2 500.

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