Dead infant's aunt questioned over scapegoat claims

Dead infant's aunt questioned over scapegoat claims

TAIPEI, Taiwan - After the aunt of a recently deceased 3-month-old infant was detained following her admission that she had mixed salt into her niece's formula, prosecutors are looking to confirm allegations that the aunt had stepped out as a scapegoat for other family members.

The aunt, surnamed Tsou, admitted after she was detained for questioning on Wednesday that she had added various types of salt into the infant's milk powder "many times" between September and October. She was held incommunicado after being questioned. Tsou claimed that she had attempted to make the infant ill because she did not get along with the infant's mother.

The prosecution was set to look for a second suspect in the case, while investigators stated in a detention application submitted to the Taipei District Court that because Tsou had attempted to conspire with another person, prosecutors requested that the court hold her in detention.

Tsou's lawyer Chou Wu-jung applied for bail on Tsou's behalf after meeting her at the Taipei Women's Detention Center Friday, saying that Tsou had admitted to her actions and has been ill for a stretch of time. "(Tsou) wishes that she can die in her niece's place and pleads for her mother's forgiveness," said Chou.

An unnamed senior prosecutor replied that it would be impossible to release Tsou on bail in just two days after the suspect had been held incommunicado on charges of homicide and attempted destruction of evidence. "The reasons for her detention cannot be invalidated so soon," the prosecutor said.

Family Members Find Testimony Doubtful

Tsou relayed through her lawyer her "utmost apologies to her sister-in-law, and would do anything in the rest of her life in hopes of being forgiven."

"If Tsou had known beforehand that her sister-in-law was going to hold a press conference, she would have admitted to her actions earlier. But things were getting out of hand, so she was too scared to face the consequences. She broke down after being shown the photos of her niece in her second interrogation," said Chou.

Tsou's husband and mother-in-law had visited Chou at his firm Friday and voiced their disbelief over Tsou's acts. "They said that Tsou thought she had cancer after losing 10 kilograms this year, and after she went through a microscopic examination in November, signs of suicide attempts had surfaced," said Chou. "They felt that she may have confessed her guilt in order to solve the family's problems."

Amount of Salt Increased Between 2 Tests of Baby Formula

The prosecution discovered that the amount of salt in the baby formula had increased dramatically between the first laboratory test and the most recent one, leading to further suspicions.

In early October, approximately 4,000 milligrams of sodium was found in the formula after the infant's parents had sent it to be examined; the amount increased to 5,500 and 6,400 milligrams in two tests later conducted by Mackay Memorial Hospital, which had treated the infant, in late October.

Following the infant's death on Nov. 5, prosecutors discovered 7,000 milligrams of sodium in the same can of baby formula.

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