Abandoned by her boyfriend, unable to have an abortion, and too scared to confide in her deeply religious family, a Sydney woman dropped her day-old baby into a drain on her way home from the hospital.
“I just saw the drain on the side of the road and then I just put baby in there,” the woman, who cannot be named for legal reasons, later told police of what happened on the afternoon of November 18, 2014.
While the woman twice returned to the drain near the M7 motorway in Quakers Hill in the following days, she could not hear any noises and concluded that the baby she had once been “somewhat excited” to have had died.
But about five days after the baby had been abandoned, passers-by heard unusual noises coming from the 2.5 metre drain and worked with police to remove the concrete slab covering it. Although severely dehydrated, cold, malnourished and wounded, the baby was alive.
His mother was sentenced to a non-parole period of one year and nine months – with a maximum sentence of three years and six months – on Thursday in the Parramatta District Court. As the 32-year-old has been in custody since her arrest in November 2014, she will be eligible for release next month.
Judge Andrew Colefax found the woman was significantly intellectually and emotionally impaired and had been “totally overwhelmed by the situation in which she found herself”.
The woman had kept her relationship with the child’s father secret from her family, and shortly after he learnt she was pregnant he sent her a text message saying he had a new girlfriend, the court heard.
She became “withdrawn and depressed”, and despite her swelling bump denied she was pregnant to her family, factory co-workers and new partner.
Less than a month before she gave birth, she asked her doctor if she could have a termination but was told her pregnancy had progressed too far.
The court heard that the woman had lived a “sheltered life”, had the concrete reasoning of a primary school student, and although she considered handing the baby over after giving birth at Blacktown Hospital “lacked the executive functioning skills to actually put a plan into action”.
“Without being critical of anybody some warning bells might have rang in the Blacktown Hospital,” Judge Colefax said.
One hospital worker noted that “there is something not quite right” with the mother and baby, although the woman was also observed to be interacting with the baby in a normal way including holding, breastfeeding and bathing him.
The day after she gave birth, the woman caught the train from Blacktown Station to Quakers Hill Station and sat in a park near her home with the baby, before she saw the drain near a bike path and put him in it.
She later told police she had first wrapped her son’s feet in a plastic bag from the hospital “because she was putting his feet down first”.
The woman wept throughout her sentencing, with her current partner and aunt in the court to support her.
She had initially been charged with attempted murder, but these charges were dropped and she pleaded guilty to abandoning a child under seven causing it to be in danger of death and recklessly cause grievous bodily harm.
Judge Colefax found the woman had no previous criminal history, had the support of her family, and her intellectual deficit reduced her moral culpability. She also received a sentence discount for pleading guilty at the earliest opportunity.
“I think the perfect storm of factors which led to this shocking crime were both largely out of the control of the offender and are extremely unlikely to be repeated,” Judge Colefax said.
The court heard that a foster carer for the baby, who is about 20 months old now, indicated he had met all “milestones” expected of his age. He will be continued to be regularly monitored.