Mom criticised after adopted child dies

Relates to:
Date: 2008-09-15
Source: iol

By Botho Molosankwe

A woman who resorted to adoption when she could not fall pregnant has been found guilty of assaulting and killing the child.

Zaibunisha Herman was found to have started abusing Tammy within three months of receiving her from the adoption agency.

The Johannesburg magistrate's court also found on Friday that she continued with the assaults until the toddler died about 18 months later.

Herman, of Ridgeway, Joburg, was charged with murder and three counts of assault with the intent to do grievous bodily harm.

She was found guilty on all the assault charges. However, magistrate Lucas van der Schyff found her guilty of culpable homicide because the state did not prove she had killed the child intentionally.

Tammy was 21 months old when she died of a ruptured liver and shock due to internal bleeding. X-rays showed fractures and bruises on her head, collarbone, ribs and knees, and that her brain was swollen.

The magistrate said Herman never bonded with her adopted daughter and had the opportunity and motive to inflict those injuries.

The woman bathed Tammy every day and her kind of injuries would have been difficult not to notice.

Two people who did not live with the child noticed she was in pain, but Herman - as Tammy's primary caregiver - did not notice anything.

"No mother will simply ignore injuries unless she did it herself and ignored them."

Van der Schyff criticised Herman for lying about how the child was injured and, instead of coming clean at the hospital so that doctors could save Tammy's life, she held back information.

A doctor testified that if he had been given the right information on the child's injuries, he could have saved her life. But it was only when they operated on her the day after her hospital admission that they realised her liver was ruptured.

Even though they stitched it, she had lost a lot of blood and her body had already gone into shock.

In a statement to police and in her testimony in court, Herman said Tammy fell in the shower and hit her head on the edge of the shower steps. Instead of rushing the child to hospital immediately, she took her to the bedroom and waited for her husband to come home.

When they finally took the girl to the hospital, she told doctors that Tammy had suffered an epileptic fit.

She feared that if she told doctors about the fall, she would be called negligent and that "everything would point to me".

The magistrate, however, dismissed her argument as a lie told by someone who had something to hide.

"It is unthinkable that any parent would hold back information for such a flimsy reason."

Van der Schyff said none of Tammy's multiple injuries were consistent with a fall and none of the information given explained the liver injury.

Herman will be sentenced on October 28.

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