A ZAMBIA Air Force officer accused of abusing and torturing her 11-year-old niece has denied the allegations before the Lusaka Magistrates’ Court, claiming that the victim burnt herself after dropping a bucket of hot water.

This is a matter in which Mildred Luwaile of ZAF Twin Palm is charged with assault on a child.

Particulars of the offence are that on March 25, 2019 in Lusaka, Luwaile assaulted a child under the age of 16, thereby occasionally her actual bodily harm.

She was found with a case to answer and placed on her defence.

Opening her defence before magistrate Nthandose Chabala, Wednesday, Luwaile testified that her sister had requested that she starts keeping the victim so that she could complete school in the city.

She said this is because her husband wanted to marry the victim off when she reached Grade eight.

Luwaile said the victim started living with her in 2017 when she was 10 years up to April 2019.

She added that her son was four months old at that time.

Luwaile described the relationship she had with the victim as that of a ‘mother and daughter’ and that like any other parent, she would discipline her.

“She was a cheerful girl, shy and she did not speak much. Our relationship was that of mother and daughter. Like any other parent, I would discipline her by talking to her and I remember spanking her twice,” Luwaile said.

When her lawyer Billingtone Mosha, who was leading her during her evidence in chief, asked her whether it was true that she deliberately burnt the victim with hot water, the accused refused.

Asked what caused the burns, Luwaile told the court that the victim burnt herself after dropping a bucket of hot water.

“In April 2019, on a particular day, I knocked off from work around 18:00 hours and sat in the dinning room with my husband when I heard a bang in the kitchen like something had fallen,” she said.

Luwaile said she heard her son crying, adding that when she rushed to the kitchen, she found that the victim had dropped a bucket of hot water.

She said she grabbed her son after she saw him standing in hot water on the floor and removed his socks.

Luwaile denied burning the victim, saying she burnt herself.

She said after she saw that water was dripping from the victim, she told her to go upstairs and change her clothes while she dipped her son in cold water and later rubbed butter on his feet.

“I gave my son to his father and went upstairs to check on (the victim) if she had changed her clothes. I found her in the bathroom changing and asked her to show me where it was hurting, she showed me her knee. I got cold water and poured it on her knee, got Colgate and rubbed on the knee. The following day, I noticed some bruises,” Luwaile said.

“It is not true that I poured hot water on her, she was lying. It is possible for a child to lie when they are scared of something. She had a tendency of twisting and fabricating stories.”

She said she was at work when the girl ran away from home.

“I was at work when she ran away. When I got home, I found my cousin who said she wanted to get hold of me as the girl had gone missing. She said maybe she ran away because of what was found in the garage as the maid said she had found a sack containing baby clothes, diapers with faeces and cutlery,” Luwaile said.

In cross examination, State Advocate Bob Mwewa asked the accused if she took the victim to the hospital in relation to the injury that the girl suffered on her knee, but Luwaile said she did not.

Asked if it was not true that the child ran away from her abuse, Luwaile said “I don’t know”.

She, however, agreed that as a guardian to the victim, she was responsible for her wellbeing.

The matter comes up on October 29, 2020 for continued defence.

Last year, the 11-year-old girl narrated to the court that her aunt tortured her by heating spoons and knives and pressing them on her skin after accusing her of having stolen a slice of bread.

The juvenile told the court that she tried to explain to Luwaile that she did consume the bread as it was eaten by her cousin who was left under her care.

She said Luwaile perpetually abused and inflicted pain on her body by heating a knife on the stove and when it got hot, she would tie her hands behind and burn her with the hot object.

The victim said Luwaile once poured hot water on her as revenge for burning her child accidentally.

She further said the accused forced her to be spending nights in the garage, claiming that she used to bed wet.