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Foetus theft may have been to keep boyfriend, court hears

2014-08-26 21:06

Johannesburg - A woman accused of cutting open an expectant mother to steal her unborn child may have done so to improve her relationship with her boyfriend, the South Gauteng High Court in Johannesburg heard on Tuesday.

"The crimes tend to be premeditated and motivated by a desire to cement a relationship with a partner," Brigadier Gerard Labuschagne, head of the police investigative psychology unit, testified about a report he compiled on Loretta Cook's alleged crimes.

"The faking of the accused's pregnancy points towards the premeditated nature of this particular incident," he told the court.

Cook is on trial for allegedly murdering Velencia Behrens in January 2012 by cutting her open in a bid to steal her unborn child, after faking her own pregnancy.

She is also charged with the attempted murder of the child, who survived.

"During April or May 2011 she [Cook] informed her then boyfriend that she was pregnant. This would have made the approximate due date in December 2011 or January 2012," Labuschagne said.

Earlier, Labuschagne said he had not performed a psychological assessment on Cook himself, but had used other interviews, police dockets and psychological case studies to compile his report.

Caesarean kidnapping

"Such offenders typically are experiencing personality-related issues as opposed to psychotic symptoms, such as hearing voices that no-one else can hear or seeing things that are not really present," Labuschagne said.

Labuschagne said this type of crime was referred to as a "non-traditional child abduction, more specifically a caesarean kidnapping" in criminal psychology.

He said a case study of 21 women who had committed caesarean kidnapping indicated that women who deliberately simulated pregnancy often did so by padding their clothing or putting on weight, buying baby clothes and convincing others they were pregnant.

"Their pre-crime planning extends further to include the selection of a pregnant victim and the hopeful extraction of the infant safely," said Labuschagne.

"Upon arrest most admitted to law enforcement that they were not pregnant, thus they were not living under the delusional belief that they really were pregnant and suffering from pseudo-pregnancy."

He said Cook had posted numerous messages on Facebook about being pregnant in the two months prior to her taking maternity leave in December 2011.

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