Mother Charged with Manslaughter for Death of 3-Year Old Grandchild Forgotton in Car

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8 September 2022, Apia Samoa Mulinuu Courts. The case of a grandmother from Faleasiu initially charged with parental negligence in the District Court for causing the death of her 3-year-old grandchild has been elevated to the Supreme Court.

The tragic incident was reported in October last year when the toddler, who had fallen asleep, was forgetten inside the family vehicle.

Pelia Sauvao Hakai appeared in the Supreme Court this week and pleaded not guilty to manslaughter.

Justice Fepuleai Ameperosa Roma has set March 2023 for Pelia’s court hearing to defend the charges laid against her by Prosecution.

The grandmother had initially appeared in the District Court with lesser charges relating to neglecting her duties as a parent, however, Prosecution have changed their minds, and charged Mrs Hakai with manslaughter instead.

The tragic incident happened in earlier October 2021 when Pelia had taken her grandchild shopping in Apia. They went into town with one other family member who was driving.

At the time, Police Commissioner Aupaau Lotoitino Filipo had told SGN that, “When they returned home to Faleasiu, the toddler had fallen asleep in the car.. she was left inside the car, which was parked outside their home for about four hours.. by the time they remembered to check on the child, it was too late.”

A family member told SGN the accused suffered tremendous mental stress over the incident and continues to be depressed and sad, being unable to forgiven herself. “O se faalavelave pito sili ona matautia, ae o ia lava o loo tauaveina le mamafa ma le tuga o lagona e oo iai se matua, ona o lenei mataupu..”

Forgotten Baby Syndrome

Forgotten Baby Syndrome (FBS) is a term most parents have probably never heard. It refers to accidentally leaving a baby or young child in a locked car, often with tragic results.

FBS is in constant growth with significant repercussions for the parent, the family and society with hundreds of incidents recorded around the globe each day.

Professor David Diamond, of the University of South Florida has spent over 15 years studying cases involving Forgotten Baby Syndrome to see if there was a consistent pattern that could help researchers understand why it happened.

He said Forgotten Baby Syndrome was “extremely rare”, with 39 children dying around the world each year as a result of the phenomenon, however there were also many un-reported cases of the syndrome occurring, where parents have quickly realised, and their child is brought to safety.

“We have many near misses where kids have been forgotten in cars, but parents quickly remember, and children did not die.”

The researcher says, in his opinion, it was difficult to prosecute parents who had suffered from Forgotten Baby Syndrome.

“There is absolutely no evidence of malice, there is no evidence these parents wanted to cause any harm to these children and nothing will be gained from society to put these people in prison,” the researcher states.

anted to cause any harm to these children and nothing will be gained from society to put these people in prison,” the researcher states.