North West couple, Seun Joubert and Isabelle Francis have been arrested and charged with murder after their malnourished four-month-old baby died. File Picture: Bongiwe Mchunu
North West couple, Seun Joubert and Isabelle Francis have been arrested and charged with murder after their malnourished four-month-old baby died. File Picture: Bongiwe Mchunu

Parents face murder charge after neglected baby dies of malnutrition

By Jonisayi Maromo Time of article published Dec 1, 2021

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Pretoria: North West couple Seun Joubert and Isabelle Francis have appeared in the Klerksdorp Magistrates’ Court on a charge of murder and five additional charges of contravening the Children’s Act, following the death of their four-month-old baby who allegedly died of complications of malnutrition.

Spokesperson for the National Prosecuting Authority (NPA) in North West Henry Mamothame said the case against the couple was postponed to January 17, for further investigations.

“Advocate Riekie Kraus registered the State’s intention to transfer the matter to the High Court of South Africa; North West Division. An indictment will be sent to the office of the Acting Director of Public Prosecutions in the North West to authorise the transfer,” said Mamothame.

Joubert, 44, and Francis, 35, from Alabama, near Klerksdorp, reportedly lived together for 15 years and have two boys aged two and five, as well as two girls, aged eight and 13.

“It is alleged that in May 2021, Francis was arrested for assaulting her two-year-old boy but was later released as she was at that time breast feeding the deceased who was born on 24 April 2021,” said Mamothame.

The South African Police Service reported the incident to the North West department of social development for social workers to intervene.

The intervention led to four of the children being placed in the care of their maternal grandmother.

“In September 2021, Francis was arrested again, for assaulting her 13-year-old daughter at her mother’s house. She allegedly hit her with clenched fists, kicked her before throwing her on the ground and stomping her afterwards. She went on to assault her mother,” said Mamothame.

“Police investigations into this assault led them to a discovery of the four-month-old baby having died on 13 August 2021 in Klerksdorp hospital. This information was declared by Leon Francis, the uncle to Isabelle Francis.”

The NPA said investigations further revealed that in June, Francis had forcefully taken back her two sons from her mother, to live with her and Joubert.

“The uncle alleges to have reported this incident to the designated social worker who, in turn, promised to do house visits to the accused. A report received from the social worker indicates that on 09 August 2021 when he took some groceries to the house of the accused, he found the two-year-old boy in a bad state of health, with sores all over his face,” said Mamothame.

“He (the social worker) then went back the following day and to his shock, the couple had left the four-month-old baby by herself, lying on the bed without a blanket. He alleges the baby looked emaciated.”

The social worker then rushed to collect his wife to assist him with the baby, before taking her home with them.

“On 10 August 2021, the social worker and his wife took the baby to Klerksdorp hospital where she was immediately admitted. She, sadly, died three days later, and the attending paediatrician confirmed that she died of complications of malnutrition as she was not fed adequately,” said Mamothame.

Police investigations are continuing. The couple’s two other children will be assessed by forensic social workers.

Francis was arrested on September 16 and Joubert on October 21.

“They were both charged for murder and five other counts. The court denied them bail and they will remain in police custody until the completion of the trial.”

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