Prisoner left in cell with her dead baby

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Copy of ST sec KianaFuneral568 THE STAR lsa and Poppie Roets talk about the death of their 5-month-old niece and granddaughter Kiana, left, in prison during her funeral in Roodepoort on Tuesday. Picture: Bongiwe Mchunu

Johannesburg - A woman prisoner allegedly stayed with her infant’s corpse in her cells for over two hours because prison officials failed to heed her calls for help.

Despite other inmates allegedly banging the doors and security gates to attract the attention of the warders as 5-month-old Kiana Roets lay dead next to her mother, no one allegedly showed up.

When warders finally arrived at the Johannesburg Prison cell hours later, Kiana’s distraught mother Helena, 38, was beside herself with grief. Roets, a convicted drug mule, was already serving a 15-year sentence in Pollsmoor Prison in Cape Town when Kiana was born in February.

The mother-of-three asked to be transferred to Gauteng so she could be closer to her family. At the time of Kiana’s death, Roets had been at the Johannesburg Prison for four months.

Kiana was living with Roets in prison because the Department of Justice and Correctional Services established the mother-and-child units three years ago.

The policy states that a woman who gives birth while behind bars stays with her baby for two years in a separate unit that cater for mothers.

Copy of ST mug KianaFuneral588.JPG Kiana Roets SUPPLIED

According to the family, the information they received is that Kiana had diarrhoea and had been vomiting.

Roets allegedly took her to the prison hospital on three occasions, but she was given only medication and the baby was never properly examined.

An inmate also told the family that on July 14, the day before she died, Kiana’s fontanel and eyes were sunken.

According to Roets’s mother Poppie, Kiana’s condition deteriorated in the middle of the night.

She allegedly woke up at around 2am and her head and eyes rolled backwards.

“Helena realised that she (the baby) was dead. She tried mouth-to-mouth resuscitation but nothing helped.

“She started screaming ‘my baby is dead, my baby is dead’. Other inmates started banging on the security gates but no one came,” she said.

At the funeral held in Roodepoort on Tuesday, Roets broke down as she saw the tiny white coffin draped with flowers at the front of the chapel. She later got up, went to the coffin, looked inside it and leaned in to kiss Kiana.


Gauteng Department of Correctional Services and Justice spokesman Ofentse Morwane said their records indicate Kiana had been seen by medical staff twice the day before she died, the first time by the nursing staff and later in the day by the doctor.

The doctor advised Helena to continue with the treatment given earlier.

“The baby was given proper treatment and was in a stable condition at the time,” he said. “We do acknowledge this is a very unfortunate and rare incident.”

Morwane added that they were investigating the claim that despite Roets and other inmates calling for help, no one came. Their records showed that there was an official allocated for night duty at the mother-and-child unit.

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