Mother admits abandoning newborn on plane

13:20, Apr 17 2009

A woman who gave birth and abandoned her baby in a toilet on an Auckland-bound plane has been convicted and discharged.

Karolina Maika, 29, of Samoa, pleaded guilty to one charge of abandoning a child under the age of six when she appeared in Manukau District Court this morning.

A second charge of assault has been withdrawn with police saying they were now satisfied the infant's minor injuries were due to the birthing process and not inflicted after the birth.

Judge Heather Simpson said the mother had concealed her pregnancy from her family as the child was conceived out of wedlock and would have caused her family and her village shame and embarrassment.

She was not aware before she boarded the Pacific Blue flight from Apia to Auckland on March 19 that she was in labour.

She was on her way to New Zealand with 72 other passengers to work as a kiwifruit picker.

Advertisement

During the flight she complained of stomach pains and told a concerned passenger that she simply had  diarrhoea.

She then went into the aircraft toilet and gave birth to a baby girl, subsequently named Grace.

Maika lost a lot of blood during the birth and attempted to clean herself up with waste paper towels before putting the newborn into the waste bin in the toilet.

The newborn was later discovered by cleaners who gave the baby to a flight attendant who handed her to ambulance staff.

Maika, who has another child in Samoa, was charged six days later.

A psychiatrist report said Maika was suffering a major depressive episode that would have affected her decision making and problem solving skills as well as her memory.

Judge Simpson convicted her but said Maika had already suffered greatly and imposed no penalty.

She intended to give birth while in New Zealand, then leaving the baby with her brother's family, in Wellington.

A close male relative, believed to be Ms Maika's brother, sat in the front row of the public gallery during her court appearance this morning.

When Judge Simpson announced the woman would not be sentenced to the maximum seven years in prison, he buried his head in his hands and cried.

Another relative, Tagaloa Enoka Puni, said the man was overcome with relief.

"This is a very sad case," he said.

He said Ms Maika's actions would be considered by village leaders on her return to Samoa and may face "sanctions" for the disgrace she had brought on her family and village.

If there was a message for young people that had come out of Ms Maika's situation, it was that they should not get themselves into that sort of situation in the first place.

Maika is in the custody of immigration officials pending her likely deportation, while her baby is Child, Youth and Family care.

Child, Youth and Family acting northern regional director Grant Bennett said baby Grace remained in its care while it worked out long-term care arrangements for the infant.

Meanwhile, baby Grace would continue to live with extended family in Auckland.

He would not confirm if Ms Maika had made a request to visit her baby before being deported, but any visit would be a supervised one.

"Grace's mother will not be living in the same home," he said.

Any decisions about Grace’s future would be based on what was best for her, Mr Benett said.

- By KIM RUSCOE, Stuff.co.nz with NZPA