The wife of a Commonwealth Army soldier murdered their newborn after ‘snapping’ over the stresses of applying for permission to stay in the UK, a court has heard.
Silipa Keresi is accused of the murder of Maliki Keresi, whose body was found wrapped in a towel by a dog walker in woodland in Hythe, Hampshire, on March 5, 2020.
Keresi, from Fiji, alleges she was responsible for the death while her ‘mind was disturbed’ following childbirth, and faces another charge of infanticide.
The 38-year-old, whose husband Dharma Keresi served as a Commonwealth soldier in the British Army, denies charges of infanticide and murder at Winchester Crown Court.
Keresi – who has two children living in the UK and two in Fiji – had requested an abortion months before her son’s birth but was told it was too late, the court heard.
After her arrest, the launderette worker told social workers she had been under pressure after her husband left the military and was worried about her immigration status.
In order to get leave-to-remain status, she was told to pay a fee which she could not afford and claimed the council ‘would not assist’ her without her immigration papers, the court heard.
The post-mortem examination found the infant had the umbilical cord still attached and the cause of death was given as ‘omission of care’.
Silipa Keresi, 38, is accused of the murder of Maliki Keresi, who was found dead wrapped in a towel in woodland near to her home in Hythe, Hampshire. Pictured, Keresi arriving at Winchester Crown Court on Tuesday morning
The prosecutor added that Keresi, who had moved frequently with her family and ended up living in a small hotel room, had not told her husband she was pregnant.
The court heard baby Maliki was first found by Michael Dorsett, who had been walking his dog in the secluded woodlands near his house in the rural town where Keresi also lives, in March last year.
Opening the case, prosecutor Kerry Maylin said: ‘On March 5, the police were contacted by a man called Michael Dorsett.
‘He had found a baby wrapped in a blanket. Initially he thought it was an animal but as he went to the base of the tree he saw a towel covered in blood.
‘He eventually saw the face and knew it was a baby. He felt baby Maliki’s cheek was cold, and there was no reaction.’
The court heard Mr Dorsett returned to his home and called police, before leading officers through the forest to Maliki, who was wrapped ‘carefully’ in the towel with his umbilical cord still attached.
‘Having seen the white towel, Police Constable Gray also saw two small feet visible and not covered’, Ms Maylin said.
‘There was blood on Maliki’s feet. The baby appeared to be wrapped carefully and was leaning on the base of the tree.
‘[The baby had] no visible injuries and still had the umbilical cord attached.’
Police forensics at the scene back in March 2020 where the baby was found dead in woodlands in Hythe, near Southampton, Hampshire
The court heard that during her pregnancy, several services, including midwives and Mrs Keresi’s GP, had tried to contact her.
Ms Maylin added: ‘She had a consultation with a midwife to discuss the possibility of termination in November 2019.
‘She had thought she was about 12 weeks pregnant, but results indicated she was 26 weeks and five days pregnant – over the gestation date limit for a lawful termination.
‘[Mrs Keresi] became shocked and visibly uncomfortable, and tried to leave.’
During an interview with a social worker following her arrest, Mrs Keresi said she had been under ‘increased pressure’ after her husband left the army.
She had also raised concerns about her immigration status.
Ms Maylin continued: ‘During the course of the interview [on March 13], Selipa Keresi was distressed and crying. She said she was in a bad situation and was trying to juggle everything.
‘She had tried to keep things good for her family, but felt under pressure after her husband had left the army.
‘There was also an uncertain immigration status and she didn’t know what to do. In order to get leave-to-remain status she would have to pay a fee which she couldn’t afford.
‘She had been to the council but they wouldn’t assist her without her immigration papers. She had tried to be a good mother for years but she snapped.’
The court heard Maliki’s body was found by Michael Dorsett, who called police, before leading officers through the forest to Maliki, who was wrapped ‘carefully’ in the towel with his umbilical cord still attached
Ms Maylin said when asked to explain, Keresi said: ‘God understands.’
The prosecutor added: ‘She also explained it had been too hard, she couldn’t cope any more and they had been struggling with money.’
A post mortem examination found Maliki had breathed and excreted following birth and would have suffered from hypothermia.
Ms Maylin said Keresi remembered giving birth but could not recall where, because the defendant said she was in ‘another world’.
The court was told Maliki’s body was found 30 to 32 hours after Keresi was seen leaving her accommodation.
Ms Maylin added: ‘A camera on a nearby farm… what we see is a figure with a white item over their shoulder at 4.51am.
‘About 20 minutes later a figure walks past the farm gate with no white item over their shoulder.’
The trial, expected to last less than two weeks, continues.