The court finds that the accused did commit the act but that she was psychotic at the time of the incident and therefore cannot be held responsible
A BARKLY West mother, suffering from substance-induced psychosis, who has been charged with killing her seven-month-old baby by repeatedly assaulting her and bathing her in a mixture of water and Jeyes fluid, will be detained in a mental institution.
This was the ruling made yesterday by the Barkly West Regional Court against Evelyn Jacobs.
The State had brought an inquiry before court to rule whether Jacobs was mentally fit to stand trial.
Jacobs wept loudly and uncontrollably in the dock yesterday when proceedings started; holding her head and pressing her hands against her ears to block out any sound.
Court proceedings had to be adjourned to afford the mother an opportunity to compose herself.
Magistrate Veliswa Setyata found Jacobs guilty of murder but said that she should be kept in a psychiatric institution.
“The accused pleaded not guilty to the charge of murder against her. She did not give any plea explanation or render any evidence in the matter. The court finds that the accused did commit the act but that she was psychotic at the time of the incident and therefore cannot be held responsible. The accused could not appreciate the wrongfulness of the act. The charges involve serious violence and the court considers it necessary, and in the interest of the public, that the accused be detained in a psychiatric hospital,” said Setyata.
Jacobs and her co-accused, Emanuel Welcome, were charged with murder following the assault on the baby on October 11, 2016. The baby died the following day.
According to a witness, both the accused assaulted the baby with various items, including a Bible and a sjambok, after claiming that the child was possessed by a demon.
The doctor who conducted the mental evaluation on Jacobs, Dr Keith Kirimi, said that a panel had examined her and found that she suffered a substance-induced psychotic disorder.
“The panel reached consensus regarding the ability of the accused to follow court proceedings. We found that although the accused was able to follow court proceedings, she was, however, psychotic at the time of the incident. It was found that the accused might have been aware that she was killing something, but the information we gathered was that she was psychotic at the time. The panel also found that she was under the influence of nyaope, a drug that contains heroin, at the time. People who use this substance can become psychotic and they have illusions as well as visual hallucinations,” said Kirimi.
He added that these factors were present at the time that Jacobs was evaluated.
“The accused, during evaluation, described the child as a snake that had the head of a frog. Such illusions are common in users of nyaope. Those are not the pleasant experiences of the drug but rather the side effects.”
Kirimi said they also found that Jacobs had developmental challenges.
“It was quite evident that the accused had an encounter of sexual abuse between the ages of 10 and 15. She dropped out of school in Grade 9 and it appears to be due to the sexual abuse. The accused started abusing dagga.
“During the 30-day evaluation it was quite clear that the accused had strong illusions about her past. She was convinced that a ‘tokoloshe’ prevented her from going to school. She also said she had sexual intercourse with the tokoloshe and that she was impregnated by her boyfriend four times but the tokoloshe had such a hold on her that he did not want her to get pregnant.
“When we observed the illusions it was evident that the accused believed that they were true,” said Kirimi.
The interpreter in the matter wept as she had to translate the testimony of the witness read into the record by the investigating officer.
The gruesome details of how the baby was assaulted and later died shocked everyone in the court and the interpreter indicated to the court that she was unable to continue.
The defence and the State agreed that Jacobs should be detained in a mental institution.
The case against Welcome was postponed to September by the Northern Cape High Court.