Womb theft accused testifies

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IOL Loretta Cook THE STAR An unidentified man tries to prevent photographers from taking pictures of Loretta Cook, covered in blue shawl, as she left the Palm Ridge Magistrates Court. Photo: Bhekikhaya Mabaso

Johannesburg - A woman accused of cutting open the abdomen of a pregnant woman and stealing her baby took the stand on Thursday to give her version of events that day.

Loretta Cook is on trial for the murder of the mother and attempted murder of the baby.

This was after neighbour Valencia Behrens’s baby was cut on the side of the head by the blade used to slice open her mother’s abdomen and womb.

Cook has pleaded not guilty.

Testifying in the South Gauteng High Court sitting in Palm Ridge, Cook said she saw Behrens on the morning of January 6, 2012. She went to speak to her and realised she was pregnant.

Cook then told Behrens she had a pram for her. Behrens came to her house later for the pram.

Cook said she left Behrens in the lounge and went to get the pram from the storeroom outside. The dustbin was at the gate as it was a Friday, when the municipality removed refuse.

Cook said she stepped outside and saw flies hovering over the bin. She walked to it and pulled it into the shade. As she turned the corner to go to the storeroom, she saw Behrens lying on the ground.

“I got into the house and took the towel on the washing machine and threw it on the lower part of her body,” she said.

Cook said she later called her mother “to rush home as something had happened”.

She said she later fainted and does not know what happened after that because when she came to, she was in an ambulance on her way to hospital.

Asked who attacked the pregnant woman, she said she did not know. She never saw Behrens’s baby, who had been ripped from the womb and was lying in a pool of blood in the lounge.

Cook was asked during cross-examination why she did not call an ambulance to help the badly injured Behrens.

“I don’t know,” she responded.

A 14-year-old girl who stayed with her mother in a back room at Cook’s house testified in camera that Cook had asked her to go and buy bread that day.

When she got money from Cook, Behrens was with her, drinking either juice or tea.

There was no one else in the yard or in the house.

The teenager said she went to the tuckshop a few houses away.

On her return, she found the gate to the house locked. She scaled it and came across a body next to the stoep.

“There was blood on the stoep and on the ground. I ran to the back room and locked the door.

“I later saw Cook on the stoep, calling someone on the phone. I heard her say ‘I’m sorry’,” she said.

The State alleges Cook faked a pregnancy and lured Behrens to her house, where Behrens was attacked, bound and killed.

 

The trial continues.

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