Woman jailed for poisoning children

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Cape Town - A mother who attempted suicide after poisoning her two daughters - one a baby - was jailed for an effective 10 years on Monday.

Phamela Somkence, 29, appeared in plea-bargain proceedings in the Western Cape High Court, before Judge President John Hlophe, who declared the agreed sentence fair and just.

Although she had faced a life sentence for premeditated murder, senior state advocate Susan Galloway and defence counsel Lara Joubert agreed that there were substantial and compelling circumstances justifying a less severe sentence.

According to the plea document, Somkence's daughters were from different fathers.

The poisoning took place in October 2010 in their shack at Brown's Farm, in the Nyanga township.

Both children were taken to hospital after Somkence told witnesses what she had done. The older child survived, but the infant did not.

In the plea, the court was told that even though Somkence had a secretarial diploma, she was unable to get a job, and received no financial assistance from the children's fathers.

The only furniture in her shack was a single bed and a table.

The older child's father died the day after telling Somkence he had found a job and would start paying maintenance.

The baby's father had considered Somkence a nuisance and had assaulted her when she approached him for financial assistance. She obtained a protection order against him.

According to the document, Somkence believed the deaths of her children, and her own suicide, to be the only solution to her financial problems. - Sapa

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