- Home alone kids burnt to death as step-mum goes out boozing
Two young children locked in a house while their step-mum went out on a Christmas celebration, died of serious burns after a fire gutted the home in the Monarch area of Francistown.
The children were laid to rest in Maun on New Year’s Eve, whilst stepmother Kgalelalo Sambo, 44, faces a three-year jail sentence for child neglect.
Eye-witnesses to the tragic fire that killed two young children have talked of hearing terrifying screams as the children tried in vain to escape the locked house.
While a neighbour at the scene managed to rescue the children after battling through two locked doors, the two later died at Nyangabwe referral Hospital on separate dates after they were admitted with multiple burns. The children Ellen (9) and George (5) were visiting their father at his Monarch home in Francistown for the Christmas holidays, and were left in the care of their step-mum Kgalelalo Sambo whilst their bus driver father was away on a trip.
Sambo who was detained and later released charged with child negligence told The Voice during an interview that although she normally drinks, on the day in question she never tasted any beer. She claims that she had merely accompanied friends on a drinking spree at a nearby shabeen when the incident occurred. “Yes, I had locked the children in the house for safety purposes and left with friends to a nearby drinking spot, but it is not true that I was drunk as police claim,” she said.
According to Sambo (44), the two children were asleep in a room that is normally used as a sitting room when the fire stuck. She also claims that when she left the house at around 8pm she had put out the paraffin lamp and locked the house for safety purposes
“I never left the light on. What I suspect is that they awoke in the dark and lit the lamp, which they must have knocked over somehow to cause the fire,” Sambo said explaining that it was not the first time she had left two children alone at home.
Regretting the accident, the mother of three grown up children said she never suspected that the youngsters would re-light the lamp causing the fire, which later claimed their lives. She said: “While I a
m very sorry to the mum of the children and my boy-friend who was on a trip on the night in question, it was a tragic accident, not murder. I loved those kids like my own,” she said.
She told The Voice that George died the following day on the 23 December and Ellen who was doing standard three at Tawana Memorial Primary school, died five days later. The children were buried in Maun where they lived with their mother.
While she never knew their mum before, Sambo said she the woman was sympathetic to her regarding the death of her children. “She only cried when we met and also when she arrived at the scene, but I am thankful she managed to see that the incident was not deliberate. Even at the funeral she never made any threats to me unlike other people who later harassed me at the cemetery until I had to seek help at the Maun police station,” Sambo revealed.
She said she used her savings to buy one of the coffins and covered other expenses with her own money along with relatives of the children in Maun as her boyfriend was only doing a temporary job.
Neighbour and friend to the stepmother, Esinathi Gondo said: “I was with Sambo when the incident happened, but although we were nearby we arrived long after the children have been rushed to the hospital.”
She described how Sambo collapsed when she was told about the accident and revealed that a neighbour was the one who broke the burglar bars and door to remove the children from the burning house. She also revealed that the fire brigade officers came long after the children had been rushed to the hospital.
Central police superintendent Cyprian Magalila confirmed that they had detained Sambo, who they maintain had been drinking after leaving the children alone at home. He said she was released pending police investigations, but warned that the woman would be taken before a court of law for possible prosecution if police could establish that she had a case to answer.
He said four similar cases were reported last year in Francistown where children were left alone and had been trapped in burning buildings. He called upon residents to report to police cases of children left home alone for long periods since it was crime to leave underage children alone. Magalila explained that anyone convicted could face a minimum of three years imprisonment.