‘The voices said her baby was evil and so she left him behind’
THE voices said her baby was evil and so she left him beside a trash bin and walked away, barefoot and sobbing, in Wan Chai.
A 38-year-old Filipino woman suffering from schizophrenia was convicted at the Eastern Magistrates Courts of ill-treating her baby.
Magistrate Cheng Lim-chi found Angelita S.L., an asylum applicant, guilty of “ill-treatment or neglect by those in charge of a child or a young person” on August 30.
The judge based his ruling on the testimony of a psychiatrist from Queen Mary Hospital who testified that, while the Filipino woman was mentally ill, she was “aware” of what was happening during the incident and could have chosen not to leave her child behind. It was the second time that the defendant left her baby.
“I accept that the defendant was suffering from mental illness, namely schizophrenia and psychotic illness. I accept she thought the baby was the devil,” Judge Cheng said in his ruling.
“However, at the material time, she could choose either to leave the baby or not,” he said.
“She knew what she was doing or, in other words, she was conscious at the time. She chose to leave the baby unattended or leave baby beside rubbish bin,” he added.
The incident happened at around 6:20 pm on Oct. 19, 2017 when a South Asian woman noticed the baby crying at 284 Queen’s Road East, Wan Chai. The defendant was standing behind the baby, also crying.
“She did not wear any shoes and was crying. Honestly, I felt she was suicidal. I called a suicide hotline before calling the police,” the South Asian woman testified in court.
“(Angelita) was sobbing. Her eyes were really red and her cheeks were all wet,” she added.
The witness said she asked Angelita if she was okay and the Filipino woman, after a pause of 10 to 20 seconds, replied “in a very soft tone that she was fine. “
She said Angelita then picked up the baby and walked away. Concerned, the witness and her friend followed the defendant.
At the nearby Tung Wah Centenary Square Garden, Angelita put down her baby beside a trash bin and walked away.
“I saw some people try to stop her, by calling her and tapping her shoulder, but she just kept walking away. She did not stop,” the South Asian woman said.
She called the police, who found the defendant an hour later and still crying.
Doctor Michael Wong, a psychiatrist at Queen Mary’s who examined Angelita, said she was “hearing voices and seeing ghosts, visions.”
He confirmed that during the time of the incident, the defendant was suffering from “psychotic symptoms.”
“But she knew what she was doing…she was in control. She could choose to do it or not to do it,” the doctor said.
He explained that Angelita did not suffer from “delusional control” or the feeling that somebody else was controlling her actions.
“And she was not able to explain why she walked away (and left the baby behind),” Doctor Wong said.
When asked how Angelita could have known what was happening if she had severe symptoms of schizophrenia, the psychiatrist said: “Many of my patients have psychotic symptoms but they still go to work every day.”
Given the doctor’s testimony, Judge Cheng ruled that Angelita was not insane at the time of the incident.
“She knew what she was doing…the only inference is she deliberately did so, knowing it would cause injury,” the magistrate said.
“In other words, she willfully ill-treated the baby,” he added.
Judge Cheng set Angelita’s called for two psychiatric reports to determine how best to deal with her mental condition.
The prosecution said she had one previous conviction in Hong Kong but it was “unrelated” to the present case.
Angelita’s lawyer said she was married with two grown-up children in the Philippines. The baby was born out of wedlock but Angelita’s family back home is prepared to adopt him as one of their own, the lawyer added.