32-year-old Loretta Innocentia Cook has been sentenced to life imprisonment for murdering a heavily pregnant woman by cutting her unborn baby out of her womb.

A Johannesburg High Court judge refused to accept Cook's defense that she had amnesia and couldn't remember luring 34-year-old Valencia Behrens to her home in 2012 with the promise of a pram, and then killing her. Cook had been faking her own pregnancy at the time and boasted about it on Facebook. Prosecutors said her husband had paid 'lobola' (a dowry), but Cook had been unable to conceive and provide him with a baby.

The judge said Valencia must have been in extreme pain when her baby was cut out, and that Cook then disposed of her body like trash, outside her kitchen. The judge also said Cook could easily have gone the adoption route if she wanted a baby so badly.

Cook was found not guilty of attempting to murder the baby, (which survived) because the judge said it was clear she wanted to keep it alive. The baby girl, Maxine Mercy Pieterse, suffered a knife wound to the head during the attack.


Original report on the murder:

'Police spokesman Appel Ernest said a postmortem revealed the horrific nature of the crime.
She said: 'We received an emergency call from one of the neighbours that a baby had been born in a house.
'We found a lady lying in a pool of blood. During the investigation we found out she had been cut open. Her baby was removed. We were told she had bled out during childbirth, but we couldn’t find the baby'


More details of the trial proceedings, including Cook's attempt to persuade a doctor to give her a false alibi.