By Sahar Adatia and Jimmy Singh.
It seems inconceivable for a child to be poisoned by someone close to them, let alone by their very own parent.
Indeed, the responsibilities of a parent include providing a safe environment for their children, treating them with care, and protecting them against abuse.
Nevertheless, for one father in Brazil, there was no such duty of care as he decided to poison his two young sons’ food with rat poisoning and then stab them in response to facing a divorce from their mother.
The sickening incident is said to have occurred last month in Sao Paulo, Brazil, when brothers Eduardo, 8, and Lukas, 5, were visiting their father at his home.
According to local media, the man, Nilson de Paula, had a history of physically abusing his wife, who had reported him to authorities for at least 30 incidents.
This eventually resulted in the woman seeking a divorce from Mr De Paula, who was resisting accepting the separation.
Unable to tolerate his new reality, the father retaliated by contaminating the food he gave to his sons with rat poison, before attacking them with a knife.
The father then decided to take his own life.
Suelen Regina Camargo, wife to Mr De Paulo, soon received a call from her eldest son, asking for help.
The 33-year-old mother rushed to the man’s home where she made the frightening discovery of her sons lying unconscious on a bed saturated in blood.
“When I got there, I had to break down the gate and the front door,” Ms Camargo said.
“The first thing I saw was my sons unconscious on a mattress covered in blood.”
Ms Camargo found her former husband dead.
The young boys were rushed to hospital where they were immediately placed in the intensive care unit for emergency treatment.
Over four days, the brothers remained in hospital undergoing treatment.
Fortunately, they survived and were able to be discharged from the hospital.
Mother’s Dejected Realisations of “Bad” Husband
Responding to the horrific incident, Ms Camargo said she did not love the father of her boys anymore.
“He (the boys’ father) didn’t accept that I had left him, that I didn’t love him anymore,” the mother said.
“He was bad to me as a husband, but he’d never done anything to our sons.”
Ms Camargo had a restraining order placed against the man since the end of 2019.
She said it was beyond her imagination that he would be capable of poisoning and attacking their children with a knife.
“He almost took everything I have from me.”
When investigators arrived at the scene, they discovered rat poison in the father’s bag along with a letter in an envelope containing 1,300 BRL ($343AUD).
Police would not disclose the contents of the letter.
Intentional Poisoning as a Significant Form of Physical Child Abuse
The intention poisoning of children falls under the World Health Organisation’s definition of child abuse, and is a considered both a significant form of abuse and one that is rarely suspected.
Like most acts of violence against children, research shows that when poison in inflicted on a child, it is done so with the intention of punishing that child – a problem viewed by clinicians and researchers as one of significant proportions.
The motive behind such acts vary from parents who are vindictive and wanting to teach their child a lesson, to those who suffer drug addiction, are not able to control their impulses, and have low self-esteem.
Other factors comprise having little capacity for empathy, while those who tend to be socially isolated also pose a concern.
One of the most common poisons administered by parents is sodium chloride – which is commonly known as table salt – followed by deprivation of water.
Under normal circumstances, a child will excrete excess salt speedily in the urine.
However, if they are deprived of water, they are unable to do so.
The result is hypernatremia, which initially causes thirst and irritation, then leads to drowsiness and seizures, and in some cases, even death.
The Department of Communities and Justice advises that children have a right to be safe, that they should be treated with affection, have education and medical care, and be protected against cruelty and abuse.
It is the duty of the parent to protect their children until they are old enough to make their own way in the world.
In NSW, as set out in section 39 of the Crimes Act 1900 (NSW), it is a criminal offence to administer or cause another person to take poison (or intoxicating substance or other destructive or noxious thing) and:
- That poison or substance note above endangers the life or inflicts grievous bodily harm on the other person; and
- The person intended to injure or is reckless about injuring the other person.
Given the risk of harm to the victim, the offence is taken very seriously by the courts, which is reflected in the austere penalties it attracts.
In fact, the maximum penalty for an offence of using poison to endanger life or inflict grievous bodily harm is 10 years in jail and a criminal conviction.
An intoxicating substance includes alcohol, a narcotic drug, or any other substance that affects a person’s senses or understanding.
Grievous bodily harm means really serious harm, such as a permanent and severe disfigurement. This can even extent to internal organ damage.
Have a question? Call our criminal lawyers today for a free first consult.