Baby cut out of Joburg woman’s body

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IOL foetus removed Loretta 122.JPG THE STAR Loretta Innocentia Cooke leaves the Johannesburg High Court, where she is appearing on charges of murder and attempted murder. Picture: Boxer Ngwenya

Johannesburg - An unsuspecting Valencia Behrens, 36, visited Loretta Innocentia Cooke at her Toekomsrus, Randfontein, house to receive the gift of a pram for the baby girl she was carrying.

A few hours later, paramedics and police were called to Cooke’s house. They found Behrens’s abdomen cut open, her uterus missing, and the baby removed from it and lying in a passage in the house.

Behrens had bled to death. Her newborn daughter, who sustained minor cuts, was first rushed to a local clinic and later a hospital. She survived.

Behrens’s cause of death was found to have been a penetrating incision across the lower abdomen with the removal of the uterus.

Cooke, 30, was later charged with murder and attempted murder.

Accompanied by family members, she appeared on Monday at the Johannesburg High Court, where her case was postponed.

Cooke, who is out on bail, tried to hide from the media. When she left court, she and a family member swopped shirts, hoping that she would not be recognised.

She was in court for hours and was smuggled out through another exit.

According to the indictment, Cooke invited Behrens to her house on January 6, 2012 under the pretext that she would give her a pram for the baby.

However, when Behrens arrived at the house, Cooke overpowered her and tied her feet up.

“The deceased’s womb was cut open with a blade, and her uterus as well as the baby were removed. She died at the scene. The child was found in the passage in the house,” the indictment said.

The State has also accused Cooke of neglecting the newborn after its removal from the womb by not giving it care or medical attention.

According to the indictment, the murder was premeditated and Cooke had not acted alone.

It is believed that Cooke had faked her own pregnancy. Friends allegedly threw her a baby shower, not knowing that she was not really pregnant.

Police investigating the case had a difficult time trying to piece together what had happened and ended up opening an inquest case.

Randfontein police spokeswoman Captain Appel Ernst said the occupants of the house could not help the police with the information.

“During the post-mortem it was found that the deceased was brutally attacked and that the baby was removed from her body by an illegal procedure,” she said.

Cooke will be back in court next week.

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