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A depressed woman who killed her baby at a park in Melbourne’s north-east because she thought her daughter was “possessed” has been released on bail to live in crisis accommodation after pleading guilty to infanticide.
Sofina Nikat, 24, smothered her 15-month-old baby at a park in Heidelberg West in April last year before rolling her body into a creek.
Her pre-sentencing hearing in the Victorian Supreme Court was told the Fijian-born mother told police she believed her daughter, Sanaya Sahib, was “possessed” and “would be in a better place”.
Nikat initially told police her baby had been snatched from her pram by a barefoot man of African appearance who smelt of alcohol.
But she later confessed, telling detectives she had lied because she was “shocked that she really did that to her baby, she couldn’t think straight”, the court was told.
Nikat was initially charged with murder and indicated at her committal hearing earlier this year that she would plead guilty to infanticide, which carries a maximum penalty of five years’ imprisonment.
But it was not until this month that prosecutors agreed to downgrade the charge, after overwhelming medical evidence indicated she was suffering from a depressive disorder related to her daughter’s birth.
Mum questioned why daughter was born, court told
Prosecutor Kerri Judd QC told the hearing Nikat was separated from her husband, who she had married in an arranged union, and was living in a women’s refuge at the time of the killing.
She said extended family members told detectives she had spoken numerous times about killing herself and her baby, asking her daughter, “Why do you have to be born and why do you have to make my life so miserable?”
But defence barrister Christopher Dane QC said Nikat had been a victim of domestic violence and was unable to cope living in a refuge with no financial or family support.
“We have a thoroughly unprepared child put into an arranged marriage, started OK, becomes the servant, becomes the criticised servant and the marriage breaks down,” he told the court.
Mr Dane said two weeks before Nikat had been due to give birth, she had revoked intervention orders taken out against her estranged husband and his family in a vain hope of reconciling with him.
Justice Lex Lasry agreed it was a classic case of infanticide, for which only one woman in Victoria has ever been jailed for.
Nikat in custody because she ‘had nowhere to go’
Nikat has already been in custody for almost 18 months and Mr Dane submitted that was more time than she should be sentenced to.
“It may be that a bail application could and should have been made,” he submitted.
“The reason why it wasn’t made was because there was nowhere to go.”
Mr Dane said a place for Nikat had now been found in crisis accommodation for women.
She will live in a motel for a fortnight before more permanent accommodation is found for her.
Mr Dane said Nikat continued to suffer from the depressive illness which led her to kill her daughter.
Mr Dane called for Nikat to be sentenced to a 12-month community corrections order.
But Ms Judd called for her to be jailed.
“The killing of Sanaya must be recognised and denounced,” she said.
Justice Lasry will sentence Nikat at a later date.