HELEN Phaka was still dazed yesterday and could not comprehend how she had failed to save her 11-month-old baby from a fire that destroyed her shack.
When she realised that her shack was burning Phaka, 34, grabbed what she thought was her baby girl Molebogeng and rushed outside. She stood at a safe distance, holding tightly to her "baby".
But when the fire had burnt out those around her realised that what she was holding was in fact a pillow. Her baby had perished in the fire.
So traumatised and inconsolable was the young mother yesterday afternoon that she was still convinced she had saved her child.
Phaka's shack burned down in Ivory Park, Extension 2, Ekurhuleni on Wednesday night. Her other children, aged 14 and seven, suffered minor burns while she suffered burns to both her arms, hands and forehead.
"My other children, Thabo and Mary, miraculously escaped while I was screaming for help. My neighbours told me my daughter is dead. I don't know how because I thought I had her in my arms," Phaka said.
Police say when they arrived the baby was already dead in the shack.
"The mother took what she was carrying and gave it to one of her neighbours, thinking she was handing over her daughter," police spokesperson Constable Nelda Hlase said.
The police have opened an inquest docket, while Phaka is being counselled by social workers.