Johannesburg - The woman accused of slicing open the abdomen of a pregnant woman to steal her baby has denied she had anything to do with her death.
Appearing in the South Gauteng High Court, sitting at the Palm Ridge Magistrate’s Court, Loretta Cooke on Wednesday distanced herself from what happened, and pleaded not guilty to the murder of Valencia Behrens and the attempted murder of her newborn baby girl.
The 32-year-old also pleaded not guilty to an alternative count of removing the child from its mother’s womb.
Cooke allegedly invited Behrens to her house on January 6, 2012 on the pretext that she would give her a pram and baby clothes for her unborn baby.
According to the indictment, when Behrens arrived, Cooke overpowered her and tied her feet. “The deceased’s womb was cut open with a blade. Her uterus as well as the baby were removed,” the indictment says.
Behrens bled to death. Her baby survived.
It is believed Cooke had faked a pregnancy and that her friends threw her a baby shower, not knowing she wasn’t pregnant.
Testifying in court on Wednesday, Behrens’s sister-in-law Belidine Steyn said Cooke told Behrens on the day of the alleged murder to go to her house and collect baby clothes and a pram.
A few hours after Behrens left, Steyn and four other people went to Cooke’s house.
Asked what she saw when she got there, Steyn said: “Behrens was lying on the ground covered with something, I don’t know if it was a curtain or what,” she said.
Behrens seemed to be unconscious, and someone was fanning her.
She later woke up, only to lose consciousness again.
There was no explanation of what happened in between, but Steyn said they later went to a clinic, where they found Behrens’s daughter.
“She was on the bed and had an oxygen mask on.
“Her little head had been cut,” she said.
During cross-examination, Cooke’s advocate, Carla van Veenendaal, told Steyn that Cooke had said she did not have any recollection of what happened. “She can’t remember that incident,” she said.
The trial continues.