FRANCISTOWN: Harrowing details of how a teenage girl beheaded her neighbour were revealed in court when the murderer appeared for trial.
The accused, Ludo Phaladze, 21, pleaded not guilty to murdering Bokamoso Otukile at Area S location on January 18, 2017.
When the trial started, Phaladze’s attorney Morris Ndawana told the court that a plea of not guilty was entered because the accused was insane at the time of committing the offence.
The only state witness, Dr Paul Sidandi, who is a psychiatrist, told the court that at the time he attended to the accused, he (Dr Sidandi) was requested to make a report.
“The first report is dated July 6, 2017 and was updated on July 28, 2017. The patient was admitted over night from January 18, 2017 to Janaury 19, 2017. She was then transferred to Sbrana Hospital in Lobatse. She confessed to killing the three-year-old child by cutting her head with an axe. The incident is alleged to have taken place around 4 pm and 5 pm. A request was made by the police to make the report in order to assist the prosecution to formulate charges against the accused. After killing Otukile, the patient was admitted at Sbrana Hospital from January 19, 2017 to May 8, 2017. The background obtained from Phaladze’s father shows that the accused and deceased knew each other as the deceased used to visit the accused’s place of residence,” said Sidandi.
For the past few days before the incident happened, Dr Sidandi said, the accused refused to go to school at Francistown Senior Secondary School.
“She said that her friends at school have developed a very bad attitude towards her. The accused’s father called a pastor who is also a teacher to counsel her. She was also taken for counseling sessions at the office of the social and community development at Monarch. When the incident happened, the accused’s father was sleeping inside the house but after he woke up, he went outside the house to work in the compound. The father later saw the accused holding the deceased’s ,” said Sidandi.
He added that according to his findings, the accused told him that she was instructed by a traditional doctor to kill at least five children.
“She said that the traditional doctor often appeared to her and gave her instructions then disappeared. The accused said that she first met the traditional doctor at a party. She stated that the traditional doctor then escorted her to her place and on their way, the traditional doctor tried to kill her for ritual purposes but she managed to convince him not to kill her. She said that the traditional doctor then instructed her to kill five children and take their heads to him,” said Sidandi.
Sidandi also said when he interviewed the accused, she told him that on the day of the incident, the traditional doctor appeared and told her to at least kill one child.
“The patient was admitted at Jubilee Psychiatric wing as a form of treatment. She was sedated by giving her some injections that clear patients from seeing or hearing things that do not exist. She was also given another injection to make her to sleep. Because the incident shocked her family, psychologists of Jubilee Hospital gave the accused’s family members counseling. The accused was later taken to Sbrana Hospital and upon being discharged, she was reviewed at Jubilee Hospital on June 29, 2017,”
According to his findings after the accused went for review, Sidandi explained, the accused said that she was feeling better but she could not recollect what had happened.
“She also said that she was no longer seeing things or hearing voices of unseen people. At that time, the patient was on medication-she was taking anti-depressants to lift her mood. At the end of the report, I came to the opinion that the patient was acting on a delusional believe that was false. Patients who are acting under such a believe harbour intentions that they believe are true but are not true. If you tell those patients to the contrary, they can’t believe what you are saying. The patient was labouring under a false believe. She was just responding to an imaginary believe that compelled her to kill,” said Sidandi.
The patient, Sidandi further stated was forced to follow instructions that commanded her to kill.
“The patient was therefore having a mental disorder. She did not know what she was doing. If she knew what she was doing, she did not know that what she was doing was wrong. This means that she was insane at the time of the commission of the offence but following treatment, she is now fit to plead. The background of the follow up report dated November 30, 2019 is similar to the first report. The report was made to assist the prosecution and defence in this case. The defence was asked to clarify four issues. The first one was whether at the time of the commission of the offence the accused was aware of the consequences of her actions thereof. My response to this issue was that she was not aware of the consequences of her actions because of her state of the mind during that time,” said Sidandi.
He added: “The other point to clarify was to find out if the accused understood what she was doing. My response to that is that at the time of the commission of the incident, the accused did not understand what she was doing or if she did, she did not know that it was wrong. At that moment, she was instructed to do what she did. Her response to that is that she was just experiencing hallucinations and she thought what she did was right… My opinion is that at the time of commission of the incident, the accused did not see what was going on and did not understand what was happening.”
Asked by prosecutor Koziba Nthanga what could have triggered the hallucinations, Sidandi said that from his questioning of the relatives of the accused, they told him that she was having stress.
“For example, she said that her friends at school had developed a negative attitude towards her. This led her to lose her self-esteem and she stopped attending school. This is an indication that she was suffering from an illness called depression…She was even contemplating to kill herself… Following her discharge from Sbrana Hospital, I attended to the patient on more than one occasion and she was not hallucinating. Right now she can’t recollect the incident. In sever forms of depression, one’s ability to recollect things is impaired,” said Sidandi.
Ndawana said he had no questions for the accused.