‘I wish I had died instead of my girl’
Burying his head in his hands, Josef Grech sobbed as he recalled how he ran to the Cospicua health centre hugging the limp cold body of his nine-month-old daughter Roselana, who had been left alone in the bath.
“The baby was wet. Her eyes were slightly open, but the area around her brow had already turned purple,” the 23-year-old told The Sunday Times, adding that the health centre’s doctor had already indicted the baby’s chance of survival was slim as she had swallowed too much water.
Roselana was taken to Mater Dei Hospital where she was pronounced dead.
An autopsy carried out on her tiny body yesterday established the cause of death was drowning.
This incident happened on Friday evening when Roselana’s 17-year-old mother was preparing to give her daughter a bath at her friend’s flat in an area known as Fuq San Pawl, Cospicua.
Word on the streets of the Three Cities is that the young mother had briefly left the baby unattended in the bath. Her computer has been seized by police to establish whether she was using it at the time.
Sources said police had not yet questioned the young mother, who was receiving medical care after becoming inconsolable. However, the inquiring magistrate has questioned the mother’s friend, who was in the apartment where the accident happened.
The mother, who is from Senglea, was being held at Mount Carmel Hospital for treatment.
The police will, at some stage, have to determine whether to bring any charges but sources said it was too early for a decision to be taken.
Mr Grech, who is estranged from the mother but was very involved in his daughter’s life, did not know the precise details that led up to Roselana’s death but the “carelessness” of it all had left him inconsolable.
“Losing your daughter in this way is much harder to stomach,” he said, lamenting how tragedy had afflicted his family.
Within the span of six weeks he had lost his 34-year-old brother David to cancer; his mother’s cousin, Charles Brignone, whom he was extremely close to, died when he was struck by a boat propeller when snorkelling off Marsascala; and now his daughter.
Sniffling, he recounted how he had been waiting outside the flat to pick up his daughter when the incident happened.
The relationship between the young parents had become “all fireworks” in the past two months, so at about 4.40 p.m. on Friday Mr Grech went to collect Roselana with his mother as a go-between.
To avoid an argument he waited on the step of the bar next door to the flat while his mother rang the doorbell.
His ex-girlfriend popped her head out of the balcony and told her she would just be a minute, before heading back inside.
“Within seconds she was back out on the balcony screaming for help. I sprinted up the three flights of steps and found her holding up Roselana, still dripping after she lifted her from the bath,” he said.
“I started yelling, ‘What did you do to her?’ I just went mad.”
A neighbour told him to rush her to the health centre, so he grabbed the baby and ran out, with the young mother chasing after him as passers-by looked on in bewilderment.
“At the health centre Roselana opened her eyes and took her last breath; I knew then that she was dead and all the doctor’s attempts to revive her were futile,” he said.
“I’m so distraught. I loved her so much. I still can’t believe she’s dead. She had already started calling me ‘Da Da’.”
Roselana was never planned, but the young couple – who dated for nearly two years – were over the moon when she was born on November 18.
Throughout the pregnancy they were supported by Mr Grech’s aunt, Rose Seguna, who had raised him since he had been a day old, and her partner Paul Magri.
They had even paid for a place close by in Cospicua to make the couple comfortable, and bought them baby clothes.
Mr Grech admitted that his relationship with his ex-girlfriend was fraught with strife and the arguments between them often led to police reports being filed by one or the other.
But it was not always bad and when the baby was born their fragile situation improved.
During the first seven months of Roselana’s life her parents raised her together and Mr Grech said he was very hands-on, waking up during the night to feed her or change a nappy.
But this was short-lived and about two months ago they broke up for good.
Although Mr Grech had got back together with the 19-year-old mother of his three-year-old son, he wanted to remain involved in Roselana’s life.
“I’m so sad to have lost Roselana. I wish I died instead of her.”
Additional reporting by Kurt Sansone.