'My life has been hell' – Hythe mum Silipa Keresi, accused of murdering her baby, tells court she was beaten by soldier husband
A HYTHE mother accused of murdering her newborn baby tearfully told a jury: “My life has been hell for the last two years.”
Silipa Keresi (38) revealed to Winchester Crown Court how she had been beaten by her ex-solider husband with a belt and feared being sent home to Fiji as she had no right to remain in the UK.
She is on trial having pleaded not guilty to murdering Maliki Keresi, as well as an alternative count of infanticide.
Maliki was found dead under a tree in woodland at Shore Road, Hythe, by dog walker Michael Dorsett on 5th March 2020, the court has been told.
Silipa, the prosecution added, had inquired about terminating Maliki in the months beforehand with the British Pregnancy Advisory Service (BPAS) but had been told at the time she was 26 weeks pregnant – beyond the legal limit of 24.
Afterwards, the prosecution added, she seemed reluctant to engage with agencies, not answering calls and having to be tracked down to the Fountain Court Hotel in Hythe where she was living.
The prosecution has played CCTV to the court showing a figure close to woodland near the hotel at around 4.50m on 5th March – and believe that is Silipa going to the woodland to give birth.
Silipa went into the witness box this morning (Monday) as her defence began.
Asked by her barrister, James Newton-Price, why she seemed to be reluctant to accept help from agencies, Silipa said: “My mind was everywhere and I felt pain in my heart.”
Mr Newton-Price told the jury how Silipa was suffering “acute stress” around the time she was pregnant.
Silipa burst into tears several times while answering questions.
The court heard Silipa first met her husband, Dharma Keresi, in 2002. However, she said she got to know him for the first time properly when he returned to Fiji three years later.
They married in 2005, having known each other for “two to three weeks”, she said.
In 2012, before Silipa gave birth to the couple’s fourth child, she had inquired about a termination but decided against it, the court heard.
She said the family moved around often, and she had little say in the marriage as Dharma made “the decisions”.
It was revealed that in 2013 Dharma was arrested and charged with assaulting her after neighbours saw him hitting her with an “army belt” before dragging her inside their Hythe home by the hair.
However, Silipa later told support agencies she would commit suicide if his bail conditions were not relaxed so she could see him.
She told the court she was “worried as to what would happen” without him, since she was “not sure I could survive” without him in the UK.
Silipa added she felt guilty about that since she had placed Dharma’s army role in jeopardy.
She said that he had occasionally punched her, but she had been afraid to speak out for fear of what the Fijian and army communities would say.
“He always put his friends first or other people,” she added. “Never myself, not the children.”
Silipa said she had worked briefly as a carer before Dharma stopped her. When asked why he had done that, she replied: “I don’t know.”
The family survived on little money and moved around a lot until Dharma left the army in September 2017.
She said he left because he had been warned he would be discharged since he had debts, and due to the court case involving the assault on her.
That discharge meant that neither Silipa nor Dharma then had the automatic right to live or work in the UK, the court heard, and Dharma subsequently applied for himself to stay.
By the time she became pregnant with Maliki, they were living in a two-bed room at the Hythe hotel, for which the family paid £300 a week.
They were using food banks and both working at the New Forest Laundrette – despite Silipa not having the right to be in or work in the UK.
Dharma was given his right to stay and made a housing application, but Silipa told the court their situation was still bad and she did not tell him about becoming pregnant with Maliki.
She said that was because she feared his reaction and the way she would be seen in the Fijian community.
Asked how she felt, she said: “All I could get was pain and sadness because my life has been hell for the past two years. That’s all I was getting.
“I felt my life was just chaos.”
The trial continues.