WINDHOEK - Scenes of emotional outbursts – some supportive, but mostly incredulous – greeted the sentencing in the Windhoek High Court on Friday of the woman who killed her almost three-year-old daughter.
Zenobia Seas, 25, the woman at the centre of all the legal drama, stood motionless with tears streaming down her face after she heard that she will have to spend the better part of the next 16 years behind bars after Judge Christi Liebenberg sentenced her to 25 years for the murder of Ava Antoinette Owoses on September 26, 2016.
She was also sentenced to another one year for attempting to defeat the course of justice, but that was ordered to run concurrently with the murder sentence.
According to Namibian laws a convict must serve at least three quarters of a sentence before being considered for parole which in the case of Seas amounts to about 16 years and four months.
Judge Liebenberg said that after he duly considered the personal circumstances of Seas and the accompanying mitigating factors, and weighed them up against the offence and under the circumstances it was committed, he came to the conclusion that her personal circumstances simply do not measure up to the gravity of the offence and the interests of society.
“The imposition of a lengthy term of imprisonment on the charge of murder is therefore inescapable,” stated Judge Liebenberg.
According to the judge, the fact that Seas admitted her wrongdoing in open court coupled with her pleas of guilty constitutes mitigating factors which weighed heavily in her favour.
Seas pleaded guilty to the murder and attempting to defeat the course of justice after two psychiatrists found she was in control of her senses when she committed the heinous crime.
In a plea explanation submitted to the court at the start of her trial Seas, who was in tears the whole time, told the court that she had endured unimaginable emotional and physical abuse at the hands of the infant girl’s father to the extent that she felt she should just kill herself and her daughter to remove them from the life of Immanuel (Dumba) Owoseb, the biological father of the child. According to her Owoseb would call her “good for nothing” and worthless and once said he wished her dead so he could get custody of Ava.
The last straw that broke the camel’s back, she said, was when she was informed that Owoseb and his current girlfriend, only identified as Ellen, wanted to have their baby by way of a caesarean section on Ava’s birthday, which was also the birthday of Owoseb.
This felt to her like they were replacing Ava with the new baby, Seas said.
Judge Liebenberg said there is one central theme in her explanation for taking the life of her daughter and that is that her actions were aimed at taking revenge on Dumba and Ellen for wanting to spoil Ava’s birthday party by arranging the birth of their child on the same day as Ava’s birthday.
This, he said, is fortified by her decision not to end the life of her other child, and added: “This is clearly one of the rare instances of maternal filicide where the mother kills her child to emotionally harm the child’s father.”
According to the judge, both murder and an attempted obstruction of the course of justice are serious offences which would attract severe punishment especially where a young life was snuffed out for the accused’s own selfish reasons. What is more aggravating, the judge said, was that the victim was murdered by her biological mother; the very person who was her provider and protector and with whom she had strong bonds.
“It seems unbearable to imagine what went through the young child’s mind whilst being suffocated and the extent to which she suffered, based on the haemorrhage spots inside the mouth and the fingermarks pressure spots on her face,” Judge Liebenberg stated.
He went on to say that Seas’ actions were calculated, brutal and inhuman which shocked the nation to the core.