A depressed young woman who smothered her baby daughter and threw her body in a Melbourne creek has been released on bail as she awaits sentence.
Sofina Nikat, 24, pleaded guilty to infanticide over the 2016 death of 15-month-old Sanaya Sahib in the Victorian Supreme Court on Friday.
The Fijian-born woman was originally charged with murder but this was downgraded after the prosecution received evidence Nikat was depressed at the time Sanaya was killed.
Prosecutor Kerri Judd QC said a psychologist had found Nikat was suffering a depressive illness as a consequence of giving birth to Sanaya in January 2015.
Nikat took the infant to a Heidelberg West park on April 9, 2016 and played with her before covering her airways until the child stopped moving, Ms Judd said.
“She put her hand over her mouth so as to block the airway,” the prosecutor said.
“She continued to apply pressure until Sanaya could not breathe anymore.”
After killing Sanaya, Nikat walked back to the home of a relative and said a man had snatched the girl.
Nikat told police a barefoot man of African appearance who smelt of alcohol had snatched Sanaya from her pram.
Police initiated a search, with a family who joined the effort finding Sanaya’s submerged body in the creek in the early hours of the next day.
Nikat continued to say someone had snatched her baby before admitting what she did, three days after the killing.
“She said she had covered Sanaya’s mouth and nose and had thrown her into the creek,” Ms Judd said.
“She thought her baby was possessed.”
A Muslim cleric in Fiji had previously told Nikat’s parents Sanaya was “under an evil eye”, prompting them to send her an amulet of holy water to used on the baby.
Counsel for Nikat, Christopher Dane QC, said the young mother struggled after moving to Australia because she was treated like a servant by her in-laws.
Nikat had an arranged marriage with Sanaya’s father and the pair separated while she was pregnant.
She and Sanaya had been living in women’s refuges in the months before the killing.
“The events further fed into her frustration, isolation, helplessness, confusion and irrationality,” Mr Dane said.
“She threatened on numerous occasions that she wanted to kill herself and her baby.”
Nikat could avoid a jail term, with the defence asking Justice Lex Lasry to consider a community correction order.
She has already spent 529 days in custody.
The prosecution wants Nikat jailed.
The maximum penalty for infanticide is five years’ imprisonment.
Nikat will be sentenced at a date to be fixed and has been granted bail.
Australian readers seeking support and information about depression can contact Lifeline on 13 11 14.