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Dina Rodrigues, the woman jailed for life for masterminding the shocking murder of six-month-old Baby Jordan in 2005, has finally made a full confession.
Explosive details of the now 31-year-old’s inner turmoil reveal for the first time the reasons which saw her plan the death of Jordan Leigh Norton in the family’s Lansdowne home. They are laid out in court papers included in her application for special leave to appeal her life sentence.
Rodrigues admits that now, with hindsight, she probably experienced “the unsophisticated emotions of an immature and inexperienced woman, adult in body but not in mind”.
Infatuated with her then boyfriend Neil Wilson, who fathered Jordan during a previous relationship with Natasha Norton, Rodrigues became obsessed with getting the infant out of their lives, she claims in the papers.
The case held South Africans captivated for two years, as the attractive young woman sat in the dock, smiling occasionally, but never speaking for herself. Her mother Mary was in the court daily to support her, while the Norton family filled the opposite benches.
Rodrigues has been held in Worcester since June 2007.
Her 24-page affidavit was filed at the Supreme Court of Appeal (SCA) earlier this year. She alleged that her trial, particularly the sentencing, was “marred by irregularity” because, in her view, she did not receive the legal advice she should have.
But she conceded that lawyers at the time may not have realised the extent of her emotional turmoil because she did not confide in them as much as she should have.
Rodrigues was frank in the papers, saying the court was correct to convict her. But she asked the SCA to order that she be sentenced afresh.
Her attempt failed on July 15, when Judges Robert Nugent and Malcolm Wallis dismissed the application.
In her papers, she claims that although she was 24 at the time of the killing, she was “very immature”.
“I had been protected and shielded throughout my life by my family, the members of which have a very old-fashioned attitude towards women in general, and unmarried daughters in particular. I had lived a sheltered life.
“I worked and had always worked in a family business, under the benign authority of a family member, and had always lived at home with my parents, despite being more than old enough to have moved out years before.”
Rodrigues continued that she had “little experience of life, and even less experience of relationships with men”.
“The relationship which I had with Wilson was the first truly serious emotional and physical relationship in which I had ever been involved. I had never in my life before been obliged to cope with intense emotions such as those I experienced while involved with Wilson, whom I regarded as the person destined to share life with me as my partner,” said Rodrigues.
“Although he was a month or two younger than I was, Wilson was already a worldly-wise, knowledgeable young man. He took the lead in our relationship in every way. He had a wide experience of women and was an experienced lover. I was (at the least) deeply infatuated with him, probably to an unhealthy extent. I believed that my feelings for him evidenced true love and I did not know, even now, if my belief was wrong,” she said.
Rodrigues said she lied to her parents about their relationship and, when she went on holiday with him, she told them that she was going away with someone else.
“By June 2005 our relationship was a number of months old and had become deeply intimate, both physically and emotionally. I believed that we were destined to be married. I could not imagine life without Wilson. ... I was happy until I heard of the existence of Wilson’s illegitimate child,” she said.
She only knew Natasha Norton slightly, and while she suffered “some bouts of less-than-serious jealousy” about her previous relationship with Wilson, Rodrigues said she initially coped with her feelings.
Her later discovery, however, that Wilson and Norton had a child “had a profound effect on me”.
“In my efforts to seek ways to release myself from the emotional pain from which I often suffered, I began to plot the child’s demise in my imagination. I made broad hints to Wilson of my thoughts, thoughts which I now realise were sick in nature. I asked him how much he would ‘pay to get rid of the problem’, or words to that effect. I was so blinded by my own resentments that I misinterpreted his reaction, in particular his failure to condemn the sick thoughts which I was harbouring, as a form of agreement with and support of my desire to rid us of this obstacle to our happiness.”
She came to “the unspeakable, cruel decision that the only way to solve our problem was to kill the child”, Rodrigues said, admitting to hiring someone to kill the baby.
“I have never had conscious contact with criminals, let alone contact with assassins and I certainly did not know how to hire a killer. In my naivete, I decided to go to a nearby minibus taxi terminus to ask around for someone who would kill for payment, and did so. It now also seems unbelievable to me that I made the decision... Only an utter fool and a lunatic would go to a public place and openly seek a killer for hire,” she said.
Baby Jordan was killed on June 15, 2005.
Rodrigues said she told Wilson she had paid R10 000 to “make the problem go away”, and realised he was “deeply shocked” and “disturbed”.
“Wilson’s reaction sobered me and served to bring me to my senses, although only to a limited extent. With the benefit of hindsight, I now realise that the evil of what I had done had only begun to dawn on me at that point... “
She was arrested and a decision was made to enter a plea of not guilty on her behalf.
“I was advised that, despite my instructions, it was quite proper for my lawyers to conduct my defence on the basis that they test the strength of the State’s case. It was believed that the evidence of the State did not provide the basis for a verdict more serious than a finding that I instructed my co-accused to ‘interfere’ with the child in some or other way. I did not believe it could be proved by the State that I intended my accomplices to harm her physically. If my co-accused did not give evidence, I believed, the State would not be able to prove more than that I intended my accomplices only (for instance) to abduct the child,” she said.
Rodrigues claims she had prepared to testify, but was advised by her defence lawyers not to take the stand because the State would not be able to prove her guilt beyond reasonable doubt.
Rodrigues was convicted of the murder in May 2007 along with Sipho Mfazwe, Mongezi Bobotyane, Zanethemba Gwada and Bonginkosi Sigenu.
She said she was surprised she had been convicted.
Before she was sentenced, she did not comply with the court’s request for a pre-sentencing report, saying she feared she would have to make the truth known, which would affect her chances of success on appeal.
“It is only recently that I have been made aware that if I had made a clean breast of things before the trial court and the learned judge had, as a consequence, come to know of the uncontrollable emotional turmoil which had caused me to act in such an out-of-character manner, he might well have imposed a sentence of less than life imprisonment on me.
“I am also now aware that, if a psychologist or similar expert had given evidence concerning my immaturity and the uncontrollable emotions which I had experienced before the murder in a pre-sentencing report, such as the one the learned judge sought, I might well have received a less harsh sentence,” she argued.
Now that she had matured and received counselling in prison, the enormity of the crime she had committed and the consequences to those she hired, “has been brought home”. She now realised that the trial court was denied information which should have been placed before it.
While she did not wish to shift the blame, she believed that she did not receive proper and informed advice.
In, addition, she alleges that Judge Basheer Waglay should have imposed a sentence less than life imprisonment when he found that substantial and compelling circumstances were present.
Approached for comment yesterday, Rodrigues’s former attorney, Tommy Vavatazanidis, said he had not seen her affidavit and so could not respond to the allegations.
Her former advocate, John van der Berg, said: “How can I respond without breaching privilege? I can tell you that I consulted with her for around 50 hours and considered her well-prepared to testify. You can draw your own inferences from that.”
He later added: “What she was advised is privileged. What I was instructed is also privileged, but is clear from the record.
“I’m not at liberty to divulge what I advised her, or what I was instructed by her to do. I merely carried out instructions and the record shows what those must have been.” - Saturday Argus