Mother jailed for mur­der

20-year sen­tence for killing three-year-old ‘Baby Jamie’

The Witness - - NEWS -

THE mother of Baby Jamie, Pa­tri­cia Ker­sh­nee Ish­war­lall, has been handed an ef­fec­tive 20-year jail sen­tence fol­low­ing her con­vic­tion for mur­der­ing her three-year-old daugh­ter.

The Baby Jamie case was a “text­book” case of abuse — and yet no one, in­clud­ing a so­cial worker who was sup­posed to be en­sur­ing her safety, had in­ter­vened, the KwaZulu-Natal High Court in Dur­ban heard yes­ter­day.

“This tragic waste of life could have been pre­vented if the so­cial work­ers had done their jobs dili­gently.

“How many other Baby Jamies are there out there?” Judge Mo­hini Mood­ley asked.

“The me­dia spot­light has fallen on this fam­ily ... but the statis­tics show there are many more.”

Ear­lier this month, Mood­ley con­victed Ish­war­lall (34) of mur­der­ing the three­year-old by beat­ing her on her head with her high-heeled shoe at their Chatsworth home four years ago.

Med­i­cal ex­perts said she would have died from “fa­tal child abuse”.

The judge also con­victed her of a raft of other charges re­lat­ing to on­go­ing abuse she and her mother Salatchie Basanich (who has sub­se­quently died) in­flicted on Jamie and some of her sib­lings.

The chil­dren, ex­cept for the youngest, who was just a baby at the time of the crimes, had all been fos­tered by Basanich when they were young.

“As the ev­i­dence showed, she would care for them only un­til the next one ar­rived and then she would dis­card them like dolls,” the judge said.

Jamie was beaten, starved, burnt with cig­a­rettes, had chilli pow­der put in her nappy and was tied to her bed at night.

Her older brother was also phys­i­cally abused, and he and his older sis­ter were forced to beg on Dur­ban’s beach­front.

Only the youngest was spared, although when she was as­sessed af­ter be­ing taken to a place of safety, she was found to be mal­nour­ished.

“The youngest one, now in Grade R, barely re­mem­bers her mother and has adapted well to her new en­vi­ron­ment. The older two are still trau­ma­tised. They refuse to have any con­tact with their mother and she has made no ef­fort to con­tact them,” Judge Mood­ley said.

While ac­knowl­edg­ing that the crimes were very se­ri­ous, the judge said that Ish­war­lall had to be treated fairly, and “pub­lic in­dig­na­tion” was only one fac­tor she had to con­sider.

She ruled that, while Ish­war­lall, who has an IQ of 60, did not have “sub-nor­mal in­tel­li­gence”, she had di­min­ished re­spon­si­bil­ity be­cause, fol­low­ing a brain in­jury suf­fered in a mo­tor ve­hi­cle ac­ci­dent, she func­tioned as a 16 or 17year-old.

Judge Mood­ley said this con­sti­tuted a “sub­stan­tial and com­pelling” cir­cum­stance to de­vi­ate from the leg­is­lated min­i­mum sen­tences as set down by law.

“I am also mind­ful that the ac­cused should not be sac­ri­ficed on the al­tar of de­ter­ring oth­ers from com­mit­ting such crimes … but, at the same time, the court must show that pun­ish­ment will be meted out.”

An­other fac­tor was that Ish­war­lall had con­sis­tently de­nied the charges against her, claim­ing “ig­no­rance” and blam­ing her mother.

“Re­ha­bil­i­ta­tion com­mences with re­morse,” the judge said.

Tak­ing into ac­count that Ish­war­lall had al­ready spent four years in jail await­ing trial, Judge Mood­ley sen­tenced her to 33 years, but or­dered that some of the sen­tences run con­cur­rently with oth­ers, mak­ing it an ef­fec­tive 20year sen­tence.

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