A 30-YEAR-OLD Sydney mother has been charged with trying to kill her newborn son by abandoning him in a roadside drain for five days before passers-by heard his cries, police said yesterday.
The week-old baby was in a serious but stable condition in Westmead Children’s Hospital a day after cyclists found him in an 8ft deep drain beside the M7 motorway in the suburb of Quakers Hill.
He was malnourished and dehydrated but had no apparent physical injury.
Local police inspector David Lagats described the discovery of the baby as “disturbing”.
He said the tot had been found wrapped in a striped blanket similar to those given to newborn babies in hospital.
“The umbilical cord had been cut and clamped so there appears to have been some sort of medical intervention since his birth,” he added.
The baby’s mother, Saifale Nai, did not appear in court to answer the attempted murder charge.
Her lawyer did not enter a plea and the magistrate formally refused her bail.
Ms Nai will remain in custody until her next court appearance on Friday.
She would face a potential maximum sentence of 25 years in prison if convicted.
“Police will allege the baby, believed to have been born on Monday, 17 November, was placed into the drain on Tuesday,” the police said.
Andrew Pesce, a gynaecologist, obstetrician and former president of the Australian Medical Association, said such an ordeal could leave a newborn with long-term problems such as brain damage.
“There would still have to be some concerns about the baby,” Mr Pesce said.
“I would have thought that it wouldn’t have been able to survive for much longer if it didn’t start getting fed.”
He said healthy newborns had reserves to cope with relative malnutrition and often lost up to 10 per cent of their birth weight because their mothers could take a few days before producing sufficient milk.
Helen Polley, a senator in Australia’s opposition Labour Party, said the near-tragedy could have been avoided if emergency hatches where babies could be safely abandoned were rolled out at the country’s hospitals, police and fire stations.
She called for the repeal of laws that make child abandonment a criminal offence, which she said encouraged the problem to be hidden.
Cyclists riding along a bicycle lane beside the motorway heard the baby on Sunday morning.
“We actually thought it was a kitten at first, but when we went down there, we could hear exactly what it was.
“You could definitely tell it was a baby screaming,” cyclist David Otte said.
It took six men, including three police officers, to lift the 440lb concrete lid that covered the drain.
Police suspect the baby was squeezed through the drain’s narrow opening and dropped to the bottom.
The baby was found wrapped in a hospital blanket, and police used hospital records to find the mother.
He would probably be taken into state care when he was discharged from the hospital, officials said.