IN a bizarre incident that sent chills down the spines of many, a Buhera woman who was praying smashed the heads of her two young children on a rock and killed one of them instantly as she claimed that a “voice” had instructed her to commit the heinous crime.

The other infant was resuscitated through first aid before being rushed to Murambinda Mission Hospital where he is said to be in a stable condition.

Mary Rukobo (24) of Mashangana Village under Chief Nyashanu has since been arrested on murder and attempted murder charges.

Manicaland provincial police spokesperson, Inspector Nobert Muzondo said Rukobo, who was expected to appear in court this week, crushed the heads of her two infants (two months) and (two years) on a rock.

She killed the two-month-old baby instantly, while the other is recuperating in hospital. The heart-rending incident occurred on January 19.

Inspector Muzondo said Rukobo, a member of a local apostolic sect, committed the offence at her worshipping shrine that is about 500 metres from her homestead.

Rukobo, who usually visited the shrine for night prayers, was allegedly naked when she committed the offence.

It is alleged that the suspect left her home for prayers around 7pm.

She took the two children with her.

“While at the shrine, Rukobo started singing and praying loudly. Around 10pm, two passers-by, Ngonidzashe (36) and John Njanji (28) of Magunduru Village discovered that Rukobo was acting strangely and informed other villagers. They teamed up and visited the shrine to investigate,” said Inspector Muzondo.

As the villagers approached the shrine, Rukobo charged towards them while naked.

She was ordered to stop and she complied.

“She was interviewed and confessed that she had killed her two-months-old son by crushing his head several times on a huge rock. She claimed that she had heard a voice instructing her to crush the heads of her children against the rock,” said Inspector Muzondo.

Inspector Muzondo said the villagers conducted a search and discovered the victims’ bodies lying on a huge rock about five metres away from the shrine.

They had swollen heads and bruises.

“The two-year-old infant was lying unconscious on the same rock with a swollen head, and the villagers quickly administered first aid. He regained consciousness and was rushed to Murambinda Mission Hospital for further management. The body of the young infant was taken to Murambinda Mission Hospital for a post-mortem,” said Inspector Muzondo.

Police from Chirozva base attended the scene and arrested Rukobo on murder and attempted murder charges.

A Rusape-based mental health specialist, Dr Thomas Nyamudya told The Manica Post that a number of new mothers experience disturbing thoughts and an emotional flatness – red flags that signal postpartum psychosis.

Postpartum psychosis is a severe mental illness, characterised by extreme difficulty in responding emotionally to a newborn baby – which can include thoughts of harming the child.

In extreme situations, a woman with this condition may exhibit behaviours such as staring off into space, muttering to herself, refusing to eat or making seemingly irrational statements.

The majority of those who experience the condition have a history of mental illness.

“Causes of postpartum psychosis are not well understood. It’s possible that the abrupt shift in hormones after delivery could trigger it. It can manifest in a period spanning from a week or a year after birth,” said the psychiatrist.

She said postpartum psychosis is a psychiatric emergency due to its potential for harm to the baby or the new mother.

“Some of its symptoms include sudden thoughts of throwing the baby or harming it in some way, delusions, which are some awkward beliefs that have no basis in reality and hallucinations – seeing or hearing things that aren’t there. She had difficulty responding emotionally to the baby,” she added.