A 24-year-old caregiver who murdered her newborn baby was spared jail today despite crushing 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 ‘terrible’ injuries on her newborn baby in the dark, then ‘leaved her for dead’ next to a tree in Aldershot, Hampshire, in 2017.
She was acquitted by a jury of murder after a two-week trial after being chased by police for at least three years after the baby’s death, before being arrested in 2020.
Jurors learned today that Rai – 20 at the time – was about six months pregnant when she entered the country from Nepal, but kept it hidden from border officials, her GP and colleagues at a restaurant where she worked because of the ’embarrassment’ surrounding births from getting married in her home country.
She was convicted of infanticide in May and today – after being in custody for more than a year since her first arrest – Rai was told she was ‘free to leave’ by a judge from Winchester Crown Court, Hampshire. She was tasked with undertaking two years of community work and rehabilitation activities for 30 days.
The crime of infanticide was introduced in England in the 1920s to ensure that women who murdered 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 a mental illness as a result of childbirth or a disorder due to childbirth.
Babita Rai, 24, inflicted ‘terrible’ injuries on her newborn baby, then ‘left her for dead’ next to a tree in Aldershot, Hampshire, in 2017 (pictured)
A gardener who was pruning shrubs on the edge of Manor Park in Aldershot, Hants., (pictured) discovered the newborn’s body in the undergrowth four days after experts believe she died
What is infanticide and how is it practiced in the UK courts?
Infanticide was introduced in the United Kingdom in the 1920s.
It ensures that mothers who murder their children are not convicted of murder if they are found to suffer from a disturbed mind.
Those mental health problems must stem from childbirth or a childbirth disorder, and the crime must have been committed in the child’s first year.
Child murder cases in the UK are very rare.
The law describes the offense as: “When a woman, through an act or omission, causes the death of her child who is a child under twelve months of age, but at the time of the act or omission, her mind was disturbed because she has not fully recovered from the effects of the birth of the child or because of the effects of breastfeeding as a result of the birth of the child.’
A recent case was of Natasha Sultan, a young mother from Hull, who 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 a ‘completely broken woman’ and ‘the burden’ [of her actions] would never be abolished’.
Rai crushed the tiny baby’s skull after giving birth next to a tree and dumped her body in a park within hours of giving birth.
The 24-year-old allegedly gave her daughter ‘deliberate’ repeated blows to the head immediately after she gave birth, causing ‘significant’ and fatal fractures.
A gardener cutting shrubbery on the edge of the public park made the gruesome discovery in the undergrowth some four days later, initially believing the dead baby’s body to be a “child doll.”
The Honorable Justice Johnson said Rai – who did not have a partner – was under ‘excessive pressure’ as her Nepalese family would have considered the baby a ‘curse, not a blessing’.
During her trial earlier this year, the court learned that Rai – then 20 – was about six months pregnant when she entered the country from Nepal in February 2017, but kept it hidden from border officials, her GP and colleagues at a restaurant where she worked.
The court heard that the baby was born alive on the night of May 15, 2017 at 35 weeks gestational age, weighing 4 pounds and 12 oz. Her body was found in Manor Park in Aldershot, Hants, the town where Rai lived.
In his opening statement, prosecutor Adam Feest QC said: ‘Within a very short time after birth, the baby suffered multiple skull fractures with associated internal bleeding and brain swelling.
Expert evidence indicates that these were the result of multiple blunt force impacts and/or significant bruising.
“However caused, they were intentionally injured and could not have been accidentally contracted by the baby, neither during labour, not even during a traumatic birth, nor afterwards, for example because the baby fell to the floor.
“The girl survived the injuries for perhaps two to twelve hours, the odds were closer to two than twelve hours. Expert evidence suggests she was less than six hours old when she died.”
The jury was told that the small kitchen worker could have been assisted by another person in inflicting the injuries on ‘Baby M’, in what may have been a ‘joint venture’.
Rai had denied charges of murder and infanticide at her trial.
Michael Turner QC, on the defensive, said she was suffering from PTSD at the time and cannot remember anything about the incident.
He said: ‘A lack of memory goes hand in hand with one whose mental equilibrium has been disturbed.
“She can’t plead guilty to something she can’t remember, but she won’t shirk her responsibilities.”
Judge Johnson described Rai as “a young woman living in a patriarchal society in Nepal,” but when she gave birth “the psychological trauma” she suffered “came to a head.”
“You can no longer deny the newborn girl alive,” he said. You, or quite possibly a person you were with, inflicted terrible injuries on that girl. She was left for dead and she died.
A court was told that the baby suffered multiple skull fractures shortly after birth with internal bleeding and brain swelling. Pictured: An aerial view of where the baby was found
“As far as you were concerned, the balance in your mind was disturbed.
‘You are a woman of good character. This offense was committed when you were under the unbearable pressure.
‘[You were] living in a country where you were not at home, where you did not speak the language, where you did not have access to the services available to help pregnant women and new mothers, and where you were completely dependent on your family for whom this baby would have been considered a curse and not a blessing.
“The offense of infanticide recognizes that a mother’s criminal liability is often greatly reduced in these circumstances.”
Mr Feest QC said a major investigation and public inquiry began after the incident, but Rai “did not reply” to any of the inquiries and never sought medical or police assistance regarding the birth and death.
Subsequent investigation and DNA evidence later revealed Rai was the mother, but after her arrest in March 2020, she gave a “no comment” interview.
Grainy CCTV from 11 p.m. to midnight on the night of May 15 was shown to jurors, with two people wandering near the birthplace.
An audience member recalled seeing a petite Asian woman around 10:40 p.m. that evening who looked “untidy,” “ashamed to see her” and “seem to want to stay out of sight.”
The child was named Baby M by the police.
The 4ft 10ins Rai, who is Nepali, was found guilty of infanticide by a jury on May 5 this year.
She will pay legal compensation of £85, will be under a two-year community order and will undertake rehabilitation activities for 30 days after serving two years and 40 days in custody.