South African Police Service.
- A mother and her sister appeared in court after the death of two children and their father.
- Three children fell ill at a Free State school after allegedly being poisoned – one child is currently in hospital.
- The girls’ father also died after falling ill at work.
A Free State mother and her sister appeared in the Bethlehem Magistrate’s Court following the death of two children, aged 10 and 14, their father, and the family cat.
They are said to have eaten bean soup, allegedly containing poison.
A third sibling, aged 11, is in hospital.
According to the National Prosecuting Authority’s spokesperson, Phaladi Shuping, the 31-year-old mother is facing three counts of murder, one count of attempted murder and another count of giving a false statement to the police.
The matter was postponed to 1 July for officers to confirm her address.
The woman is currently in custody.
Her 21-year-old sister is facing one charge of defeating the ends of justice.
“She allegedly tried to assist her sister in covering up the case,” Shuping said, adding that the woman was released on bail.
News24 knows the women’s identities, but it has been withheld to protect the identity of the surviving child.
According to the police, the family ate the soup before they left for work and school.
At around 10:00, the sisters complained of stomach cramps at Utopia Farm School, said police spokesperson Captain Phumelelo Dhlamini.
The teachers took the children to a Bethlehem clinic, where two died. The third is receiving treatment in Phekolong Hospital’s ICU.
Their father fell ill at work and was also admitted to Phekolong Hospital, where he later died.
The family cat was found dead after it ate the same soup.
Preliminary investigation has revealed that their aunt cooked and fed them the soup for breakfast, but she ate none of it. She could not give a satisfactory reason [to explain] why she got rid of the soup that was left inside the pot.
Free State Education MEC Tate Makgoe said the education department was “devastated to receive news of the death of these learners”.
Senior officials visited the family to offer support, and counselling was provided to teachers and fellow pupils.
“We are deeply saddened by these untimely deaths and wish to convey our condolences to the family who lost their children in this tragic way,” he said.
At least four other children died due to poisoning, allegedly by a parent, in the last two months.
A 37-year-old Gauteng mother appeared in court for allegedly poisoning her two children earlier this month. A 16-year-old boy died, and a seven-year-old girl was hospitalised. She allegedly poisoned the children after she was scammed out of a large amount of money.
Last month, a man was arrested for allegedly using laced energy drinks to poison his children. Three siblings – aged 16, 13 and 6 – died, and a fourth was hospitalised.