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Fri Oct 21 22:05:27 CAT 2016

Probe into little Alaia's death

POPPY LOUW | 25 October, 2012 00:50
File photo.
Image by: Times Media

Police are investigating the death of a five-month-old baby, who died in hospital on the West Rand after she had allegedly been abused.

Little Alaia was admitted to the hospital on October 10 after her parents brought her in, complaining that she was having trouble breathing and was vomiting and running a fever.

Alaia - whose surname is being withheld to protect the identity of her parents - was immediately placed on a ventilator because she was unable to breathe on her own.

On Wednesday last week, a decision was taken to switch off the machines and Alaia died.

Tests before her death had revealed several injuries consistent with child abuse.

A hospital staff member familiar with the case said Alaia had shown typical signs of the shaken baby syndrome.

"Something wrong had been done to that baby because she arrived in a very bad state. We found internal bruising on her," said the staff member.

Shaken baby syndrome is a combination of medical symptoms - including the collection of blood on the surface of the brain, retinal bleeding and water on the brain - from which doctors can infer a child has been abused.

A doctor, who asked not to be named, said cases of the syndrome were "cropping up" regularly.

"The signs may not be visible to the naked eye but scans are very helpful and reveal a lot. It is the result of the baby being shaken too hard or knocked against objects."

The doctor said typical symptoms ranged from chronic bleeding to internal bruising on the limbs.

"Whether you're playing or frustrated, you cannot shake a baby. Their limbs and muscles are not strong enough to handle it," the doctor said.

According to statements made to the police, doctors found several internal and external injuries that allegedly pointed to abuse.

Alaia's parents declined to comment, saying they were still in mourning.

Florida police spokesman Captain Lydia Mtila-Dikolomela said police were investigating a case of common assault and attempted murder.

"The case has not gone to court yet and there have not been any arrests. Investigations into the matter are still under way," she said.

The charges might be changed to murder.

Hospital manager Chris van Wyk declined to comment on the baby's death, saying only that he would support the police during their investigations.


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