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Former soldier’s wife must serve at least nine years over death of baby

·3 min read

The wife of a former soldier who was beaten by her husband and whose life was in “chaos” has been jailed for life to serve a minimum of nine years for the murder of her newborn baby who she abandoned in woodland.

Silipa Keresi was convicted at Winchester Crown Court in connection with the death of Maliki Keresi who was found dead, wrapped in a bath towel near to the defendant’s home in Hythe, New Forest, Hampshire, on March 5 2020.

The trial heard that the defendant, from Fiji, who is married to a former Commonwealth soldier in the British Army, was stressed at the time by the process of applying for permission to stay in the UK combined with financial difficulties.

She told the court that her life had been “hell for the past couple of years” with her family being homeless while living in a small hotel room, surviving on contributions from a food bank.

The court also heard she was the victim of domestic violence since 2008 from her husband, Dharma Keresi, who used to hit her and beat her with his army belt.

The assaults led to Mr Keresi being told by the Army to resign in 2017 or face disciplinary proceedings.

The trial was told she found out that she was pregnant when it was too late to legally have an abortion.

Keresi, who has four other children, told the jury: “I felt my life was just chaos.”

A general view of Winchester Crown Court (Chris Ison/PA)
A general view of Winchester Crown Court (Chris Ison/PA)

Sentencing the 38-year-old, the judge Mr Justice Garnham told her that she had left her child “exposed, defenceless and alone” and added: “Regardless of your circumstances, abandoning your baby was a truly dreadful thing to do.”

He said that Keresi had “poor coping strategies” and was wary of the authorities and was reluctant to seek help as she lived in fear of deportation.

He added: “I have no doubt you feel some genuine and enduring remorse.

“I accept you acted in a way that was wholly out of character and you would not have done what you did but for the extreme nature of your personal circumstances.”

James Newton-Price QC, defending, said Keresi faces deportation and added: “This was an act of some desperation by Mrs Keresi in the circumstances she found herself.

“This defendant could expect no real support from her husband on learning she was pregnant, the reason for that was the background of intimidation and domestic violence in the marriage.”

Kerry Maylin, prosecuting, told the trial that in November 2019, Keresi visited the British Pregnancy Advisory Service (BPAS) seeking a termination.

But she had left the appointment distressed after a scan revealed she was 26 weeks and five days pregnant, past the legal limit of 24 weeks for an abortion.

Miss Maylin said: “Silipa Keresi appeared very shocked, she became visibly uncomfortable, she got off the bed abruptly and tried to leave.”

She said that several attempts were made by the midwife service to contact the defendant during her pregnancy, including a visit to her home, but she failed to attend appointments.

A post-mortem examination of the dead baby showed that Maliki suffered no injuries but he would have suffered from hypothermia with the cause of death given as “omission of care”.

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