When a woman brought her four-year-old son to the hospital complaining of a stomach ache and vomiting blood, she said it was the result of a seafood allergy. But doctors in Thailand were surprised to discover that the boy was suffering from a severe stomach infection, not an allergic reaction.
After digging deeper, they found that she had been lacing his meals with a corrosive substance for two years. But he was not her only victim, with doctors realising her daughter had died in 2019 after exhibiting similar symptoms.
Nattiwan Rakkunjet, whom local reports have dubbed “bleach mum,” was sentenced to death in the Thai capital Bangkok on Sep. 15. after being found guilty of poisoning her two children and posting their sickly pictures on social media in order to solicit public donations until she was arrested in 2020.
Doctors at Thammasat University Hospital near Bangkok, where the two children were treated, determined that they had suffered from bleeding in the digestive tract, vomiting blood, and stomach inflammation due to the ingestion of a corrosive substance.
Prosecutors said that Nattiwan had been feeding her four-year-old daughter food laced with mildly corrosive liquid since adopting her in 2015. The girl was first admitted to hospital in December 2018 with an acute stomach ache and vomiting blood. She would be admitted to hospital six times in the next seven months.
In August 2019, after being admitted into hospital for the final time, the girl died from complications related to internal hemorrhaging—bleeding in her digestive tract, high blood pressure, and kidney failure. Doctors didn’t rule her death as suspicious at the time.
But in January 2020, less than a year after her adoptive daughter’s death, Nattiwan admitted her biological son to hospital with similar symptoms, including stomach ache, vomiting blood, and swelling in his mouth. At that time, Nattiwan told doctors that her son had become sick hours after eating squid, claiming that it was a seafood allergy.
However, doctors found that the boy did not have an allergic reaction, but was instead suffering from a severe stomach infection. They also found traces of a corrosive chemical, usually found in bathroom cleaners, in his mouth, stomach, and intestines.
Now suspecting that the boy’s condition was caused by his mother, doctors prohibited Nattiwan from bringing food for the boy in hospital. Medical staff also supervised the pair during her visits, and became convinced that the boy was sick from ingesting a corrosive substance.
The court heard that Nattiwan had been lacing her son’s meals since September 2017 and would post images of her sick children on Facebook, asking for public donations to cover medical expenses. After Nattiwan’s arrest in May 2020, the boy was placed in a shelter.
Police found some 20 million baht ($54,000) across her two bank accounts, believed to have been earned from the public donations. The court ordered Nattiwan to return 42,000 baht ($1,100) and confiscated the mobile phones that she had bought with the money.
After her arrest, Nattiwan confessed to, among other charges, human trafficking by using her children to solicit donations, murder, and attempted murder. However, the court said that her confession was not a mitigating factor in her sentencing, as she only did so after overwhelming evidence was presented against her.