WARNING: GRAPHIC CONTENT
“I drowned it.”
That was the haunting explanation an Auckland mum gave a paramedic in November 2022 after her 15-week-old daughter was found dead on a shower floor in her Silverdale home.
The 36-year-old defendant, who continues to have interim name suppression, appeared in the High Court at Auckland today as she pleaded guilty to infanticide, two months after she was initially set to go to trial for murder.
Emergency responders arrived at her home shortly after the mum called 111 around 11.45 that morning, stating that she had consumed a toxic cleaning product and adding: “I killed my daughter. I need the police as well.”
Her child had already been dead for nearly three hours at that point, according to court documents made public for the first time today.
Other members of the household had left the house for work around 7.20am and the infant is believed to have died around 9am, after the defendant did an internet search for “what happens to a mortgage if spouse die nz”.
“love you all,” she wrote in a Facebook message to family sent at 9.29am, followed by a message to her husband one minute later: “I love you dear.”
The mother was found slumped in the same shower as her daughter next to an open bottle of drain cleaner.
Authorities also found a handwritten note in which the defendant wrote about not expecting motherhood to be so hard, as well as feelings of being isolated, trapped and losing her independence.
“Pardon me for being weak and for losing this fight,” the note read.
Unlike murder, which carries a life sentence, infanticide carries a maximum sentence of three years’ imprisonment.
The law, which has been in place for over seven decades, is applicable when a mother causes the death of her child under 10 years old “and where at the time of the offence the balance of her mind was disturbed, by reason of her not having fully recovered from the effect of giving birth to that or any other child, or by reason of the effect of lactation”.
It was a major issue during the high-profile trial last year in Christchurch of Lauren Dickason, who jurors instead found guilty of murder for the deaths of her three daughters.
During today’s hearing before Justice Graham Lang, Crown prosecutor Robin McCoubrey noted that three psychiatrists filed reports determining that the defendant was suffering “a severe depressive episode following and caused by the birth.
“The Crown accepts that the defendant is not guilty of murder, but rather is guilty of infanticide,” McCoubrey said. “Our law recognises that where a mother is affected by post-natal depression, and for that reason makes the tragic decision to kill her child, she is guilty of the lesser offence of infanticide, rather than murder. That is the position here.”
McCoubrey emphasised that the decision to substitute the murder charge for infanticide, which needed permission from the Solicitor-General, was “based solely upon the unanimous voice of the psychiatric evidence.
“It is important in the Crown’s view to understand that this is not a case where the Crown is accepting a guilty plea to a lesser charge after a consideration of the overall public interest, or in order to eliminate litigation risk,” he explained.
A sentencing date has been set for May.
Craig Kapitan is an Auckland-based journalist covering courts and justice. He joined the Herald in 2021 and has reported on courts since 2002 in three newsrooms in the US and New Zealand.
WHERE TO GET HELP • Lifeline: 0800 543 354 (available 24/7) • Suicide Crisis Helpline: 0508 828 865 (0508 TAUTOKO) (available 24/7) • Youth services: (06) 3555 906 • Youthline: 0800 376 633 • What's Up: 0800 942 8787 (11am to 11pm) • Depression helpline: 0800 111 757 (available 24/7) • Rainbow Youth: (09) 376 4155 • Helpline: 1737 If it is an emergency and you feel like you or someone else is at risk, call 111
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