Why mom suffocated son and burnt body

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Copy of ST_sec Precious Mokoena381.JPG (42511045) THE STAR Precious Mokoena is accused of murdering her 8-year-old son. Photo: Sharon Seretlo

Johannesburg - Precious Maliepetsane Mokoena couldn’t bear the thought of her former husband’s new wife raising and taking care of her son.

So she took a plastic bag, put it over her 8-year-old son Lehlohonolo Magatikele’s head and suffocated him. She then took his lifeless body, put it into her car and drove to Dawn Park, a suburb a few kilometres away, where she placed it on the side of the road and burnt it.

Asked during her psychiatric assessment why she had killed her son, Mokoena didn’t show any emotion. “I did what I did because I was called a psychopath. I did what a psychopath would do. I was tired of fighting and would not let another woman take care of my child,” she told a clinical psychologist assessing her.

Mokoena, a former medical technologist, is facing charges of assault, malicious damage to property and murder. It is believed that a custody battle was at the centre of what happened, and she pleaded guilty to the crimes.

However, the court ordered that she be taken for mental observation. For 30 days she was at Sterkfontein Psychiatric Hospital, where clinical psychologist Grant Strong assessed her.

Strong, who has been practising for two-and-a-half years, not only interviewed Mokoena but spoke to her family and former husband too.

On Tuesday at the South Gauteng High Court sitting at the Palm Ridge Magistrate’s Court, Strong told of his finding.

Mokoena and her former husband Selemo Joseph Magatikele married in 1993. Three years later, Mokoena was involved in an accident that left her in a coma for a month. She needed a year of rehabilitation and lost her job.

A few years later, Mokoena accused Magatikele of infidelity. Magatikele, on the other hand, claimed Mokoena had become violent towards him and also had aggressive outbursts.

Despite their marital problems, the two had Lehlohonolo in 2004. Magatikele allegedly denied paternity but later accepted that the child was his. Mokoena filed for divorce a year later.

Magatikele remarried, and he and Mokoena were allegedly always at loggerheads over custody and maintenance. Just before the killing, she had allegedly deregistered Lehlohonolo from school, saying she was taking him to KwaZulu-Natal. She also refused to let Magatikele see Lehlohonolo on weekends, as per their agreement.

Concerned neighbours later called Magatikele, telling him that Mokoena was behaving strangely and that Lehlohonolo was missing. When media reports surfaced that a woman was seen dumping a body, Magatikele allegedly sent a text message to Mokoena, accusing her of killing Lehlohonolo.

“A day later she responded, apparently indicating suicidal intention and resentment towards him for getting married and abusing her,” Strong said.

Police later found Mokoena at home with her wrists cut in an apparent suicide attempt.

During cross-examination, her lawyer, advocate Thabiso Mashitoa, drew Strong’s attention to the fact that there was a history of mental illness in Mokoena’s family and that even Magatikele had stated that the 43-year-old woman had changed and was not herself.

However, Grant said there was no evidence that Mokoena suffered any psychiatric disorder at the time of the offence.

When Mashitoa asked him whether it was possible for someone to suffer mental incapacitation a few minutes before the commission of a crime, and throughout the crime, then go back to their normal mental status later, Grant said “hypothetically, yes.”

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