SYDNEY (AP) — A 30-year-old Sydney mother has been charged with the attempted murder of her newborn son who was allegedly abandoned in a roadside drain for five days before passers-by heard his cries, police said Monday.
The week-old baby was in serious but stable condition in Sydney's Westmead Children's Hospital on Monday, a day after a group of cyclists found him in a 2.5-meter (8-foot) deep drain beside the M7 Motorway in the Sydney suburb of Quakers Hill, police said in a statement.
His mother Saifale Nai, of Quakers Hill, did not appear in the Blacktown Local Court on Monday to answer the attempted murder charge. She faces a potential maximum sentence of 25 years in prison if convicted.
Her lawyer did not apply for bail or enter a plea to the charge. The magistrate formally refused her bail.
Nai will remain in custody until she appears in the Penrith Local Court on Friday.
"Police will allege the baby, believed to have been born on Monday (Nov. 17), was placed into the drain on Tuesday," the police statement said.
Andrew Pesce, a gynecologist, obstetrician and former president of the Australian Medical Association, the nation's leading doctors' group, said such an ordeal could leave a newborn baby with long-term problems such as brain damage.
"There would still have to be some concerns about the baby," Pesce said.
"I would have thought that it wouldn't have been able to survive for much longer if it didn't start getting fed," he added.
He said healthy newborns have reserves to cope with relative malnutrition and often lose 10 percent of their birth weight because their mothers can take a few days before producing sufficient milk.
Helen Polley, a senator in the opposition Labor Party, said the near-tragedy could have been avoided if emergency hatches were rolled out at Australian hospitals, police and fire stations where babies could be safely abandoned.
Polley also called on Sunday for the repeal of laws that make child abandonment a criminal offense, which she said encourage the problem to be hidden.
The baby was found wrapped in a hospital blanket. Police used hospital records to find the mother on Sunday afternoon.
Quakers Hill Police Inspector David Lagats said on Sunday the boy had no signs of physical injury, but was malnourished and dehydrated, Lagats said.
Cyclists riding along a bicycle lane beside the motorway heard the baby on Sunday morning.
"We actually thought it was a kitten at first, but when we went down there we could hear exactly what it was — you could definitely tell it was a baby screaming," cyclist David Otte told The Daily Telegraph newspaper.
It took six men, including three police officers, to lift a 200-kilogram (440-pound) concrete lid that covered the drain, the newspaper said.
Police suspect the baby was squeezed through the drain's narrow opening and dropped to the bottom.
The baby would likely be taken into state care when he was discharged from the hospital, officials said