Homeless woman admits burying newborn baby alive before it was dug up by fox in London

Elita Amantova was severely mentally ill and had been forced into prostitution

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The Independent Online

A mother has admitted burying her newborn baby alive in a London park after giving birth without help while sleeping rough.

Elita Amantova, 39, was sentenced to a hospital order at the Old Bailey because of her mental illness. She had denied murder but pleaded guilty to infanticide.

Her baby’s body was only discovered after an urban fox dug it up on Tooting Common and dismembered parts were found nearby in September 2012.

Amantova was sleeping in a graveyard at the time and surviving by eating foraged berries and bread left out for the birds.

She was not being treated for a schizophrenic-type mental condition that she had been diagnosed with while still in Latvia in her 30s and it worsened after childbirth, the court heard.

Zoe Johnson, a lawyer for the prosecution, told the court Amantova had an “appalling experience” after arriving in the UK in 2008 in the hope of finding work.

After losing her job, she was forced into prostitution by a criminal gang in Norfolk and did not manage to escape until 2012, when she fled to London.

Tooting-Common.jpg
The baby was buried on Tooting Common

By August that year, she was sleeping rough in the graveyard in Garratt Lane, Tooting, and heavily pregnant.

A member of the public who saw her sleeping on grave stones and noticed her pregnancy alerted authorities to her concerns but Amantova refused offers of help, Ms Johnson said.

A police constable attempted to persuade her to go into homeless accommodation but gave up when she turned down the offer and promised to go to a doctor.

Just weeks later, on 10 September, a major police investigation was sparked when a Wandsworth Council worker found the baby’s leg and foot on the ground in a tractor yard near the common.

“The leg was infested with maggots. In a search, another limb was found, the thigh and calf had been eaten through exposing bone,” Ms Johnson said.

"Later, a fox expert was called to the yard and discovered a fox entrance. A fox is likely to have found those body parts on Tooting Common and brought the parts into the yard."

DNA testing identified the mother as Amantova, who told officers who tracked her down a week later that she had given birth without any assistance.

She was arrested on 17 September 2012 after being found on her haunches outside a branch of Sainsbury's in Tooting watching people coming and going saying it was a "nice day", the court heard.

Because of her serious mental condition she could not be interviewed until the following February, when she told police that she gave birth to a child in August 2012 and buried it in a park on the same day.

Amantova thought she knew who the father was but had no contact with him, leaving him unaware of the events.

The defendant told police she found the birth "too traumatic" to answer questions about it and would not confirm whether the child was alive or dead when she buried it.

But during an interview with a doctor in April last year, she said the baby had been alive and was charged with murder.

The court today accepted her not guilty plea because of her mental state. She instead admitted infanticide, which covers killings where mothers’ minds are “disturbed…by reason of not having fully recovered” from giving birth.

Sentencing her to an indefinite term in hospital care, judge Paul Worsley said infanticide was a rare offence and while "the court must always mark the serious fact a life has been taken", imprisonment was not appropriate.

Due to the enduring illness the defendant was suffering, she will probably need lifelong treatment and care, he added.

Additional reporting by PA