A 24-year-old care worker who killed her newborn baby was spared jail today despite shattering the little girl’s skull shortly after birth and leaving the body in a park until she was found four days later.
Babita Rai, 24, inflicted ‘dreadful’ injuries on her newborn baby after dark and then ‘left her for dead’ next to a tree in Aldershot, Hampshire, in 2017.
She was cleared of murder by a jury following a two week trial having been hunted by police for at least three years after the baby’s death, before her arrest in 2020.
Jurors today heard Rai – 20 at the time – was around six months pregnant when she entered the country from Nepal but concealed it from border officials, her GP, and colleagues at a restaurant she worked at because of the ‘shame’ surrounding births out of wedlock in her home country.
She was convicted of infanticide in May and today – after spending more than a year in custody since her initial arrest – Rai was told she was ‘free to leave’ by a judge at Winchester Crown Court, Hampshire. She was ordered to undertake two years of community work and rehabilitation activity for 30 days.
The crime of infanticide was introduced in England in the 1920s to ensure women who killed their children in their first year would not be charged with murder, and therefore sentenced to death.
It applies if the mother is found to have mental health arising from giving birth or a disorder from giving birth.
Babita Rai, 24, inflicted ‘dreadful’ injuries on her newborn baby and then ‘left her for dead’ next to a tree in Aldershot, Hampshire, in 2017 (pictured)
A gardener who was trimming shrubs at the edge of Manor Park in Aldershot, Hants.,(pictured) discovered the newborn baby’s body in undergrowth four days after experts believe she died
What is infanticide and how is it applied in the UK courts?
Infanticide was introduced in the United Kingdom in the 1920s.
It allows for mothers who kill their children not to be sentenced with murder, if they are found to be suffering a disturbed mind.
Those mental health issues must arise from giving birth or a disorder from giving birth and the crime must be committed in the child’s first year.
Infanticide cases in the UK are very rare.
The law describes the crime as: ‘Where a woman by any wilful act or omission causes the death of her child being a child under the age of twelve months, but at the time of the act or omission the balance of her mind was disturbed by reason of her not having fully recovered from the effect of giving birth to the child or by reason of the effect of lactation consequent upon the birth of the child.’
One recent case was of Natasha Sultan, a young mother from Hull, was given a three-year supervision order in 2015 for killing her five-week-old daughter in an ‘explosion of violence’.
The judge said she was an ‘utterly broken woman’ and ‘the burden [of her actions] would never be lifted’.
Rai crushed the tiny infant’s skull after giving birth besides a tree and dumped her body in a park within hours of giving birth.
The 24 year old was said to have given her daughter ‘deliberate’ repeated blows to the head immediately after her labour, causing ‘significant’ and fatal fractures.
A gardener trimming shrubs at the edge of the public park made the horrific discovery in undergrowth some four days later, initially believing the dead baby’s body to be a ‘child’s doll’.
The Honourable Mr Justice Johnson said Rai – who did not have a partner – was under ‘intolerable pressure’ as her Nepali family would have regarded the baby as a ‘curse not a blessing’
During her trial earlier this year the court heard Rai – 20 at the time – was around six months pregnant when she entered the country from Nepal in February 2017 but concealed it from border officials, her GP, and colleagues at a restaurant she worked at.
The court heard the baby was born alive at 35 weeks gestation on the night of May 15 2017, weighing 4lbs 12oz. Her dead body was found in Manor Park in Aldershot, Hants, the town where Rai was living.
In his opening, prosecutor Adam Feest QC said: ‘Within a very short time of birth, the baby suffered multiple fractures to her skull with associated internal bleeding and brain swelling.
‘Expert evidence indicates these were the result of multiple blunt force impacts and or significant crush injuries.
‘Howsoever caused, they were deliberately inflicted injuries and could not have been sustained by the baby accidentally, either during the process of labour, even a traumatic one, or afterwards, for example the baby falling on the floor.
‘The baby girl survived the injuries for perhaps between two and 12 hours, the likelihood being closer to two than 12. Expert evidence suggests when she died she was less than six hours old.’
The jury was told the petite kitchen worker could have been helped by another person in inflicting the injuries on ‘Baby M’, in what may have been a ‘joint enterprise’.
Rai had denied charges of murder and infanticide at her trial.
Michael Turner QC, defending, said she was suffering from PTSD at the time and has no memory of the incident.
He said: ‘A lack of memory goes hand in hand with someone whose balance of mind was disturbed.
‘She can’t plead guilty to something she can’t remember but she’s not shirking away from her responsibilities.’
Judge Johnson described Rai as ‘a young woman living in a patriarchal society in Nepal’ but when she came to give birth ‘the psychological trauma’ from which she had been suffering ‘came to a head’.
‘No longer could you deny the newborn living baby girl,’ he said. You or very possible a person you were with inflicted dreadful injuries on that baby girl. She was left for dead and she died.
A court was told the baby suffered multiple fractures to her skull with internal bleeding and brain swelling shortly after time of birth. Pictured: an aerial image of where the baby was found
‘So far as you were concerned, the balance of your mind was disturbed.
‘You are a woman of good character. This offence was committed when you were under the must intolerable pressure.
‘[You were] living in a country that was not your home where you did not speak the language, where you were unable to access the services that are there to assist pregnant women and new mothers, and were wholly dependent on your family for whom this baby would have been regarded as a curse and not a blessing.
‘The offence of infanticide recognises that the criminal responsibility of a mother in these circumstances is often very greatly reduced.’
Mr Feest QC said following the incident a large investigation and public enquiry began, but Rai ‘made no response’ to any of the enquiries and never sought medical or police help in relation to the birth and death.
Subsequent investigations and DNA evidence later revealed Rai to be the mother but following her arrest in March 2020 she gave a ‘no comment’ interview.
Grainy CCTV from 11pm to midnight on the night of May 15 was shown to jurors, showing two people walking around the vicinity of the birth site.
One member of the public recalled seeing a small Asian woman around 10.40pm that night looking ‘dishevelled’, ’embarrassed he had seen her’, and ‘appearing to wish to remain out of sight’.
The child was given the name Baby M by police.
The 4ft 10ins Rai, who is Nepalese, was found guilty of infanticide by a jury on May 5 this year.
She will pay a statutory charge of £85, will be under a community order of two years and undertake rehabilitation activities for 30 days after remaining in custody for two years 40 days.