This year’s horror child abuse cases

Pretoria – The Gauteng High Court, Pretoria, hears many murder and assault trials, but what stood out this year was the high number of cases involving child abuse and murder where those in the dock are the very people supposed to care for and nurture the little ones.

In the headline-grabbing case of Poppie van der Merwe, 3, the court heard in grim detail of the girl’s slow and painful death. In the trial of the so-called Springs monster, the court heard of the torture and neglect inflicted on the children in his family.

Family members who attended the court case of Louisa and Kobus Koekemoer, Poppie’s biological mother and stepfather, wore a picture of the pretty little girl on their chests. But this smiling girl with blue eyes and blonde curls, was not the child we saw pictures of in court – an emaciated child with her hair shaved off and haunted eyes.

The story of the horrific abuse of this child, and her little brother, over a period of about eight months as her parents moved around to avoid social services, unfolded in court.

Her stepfather took her to hospital when she was already dead. The doctor found her little body covered with bruises and she had suffered major brain injury. Both her parents were found equally guilty of her murder and will be sentenced by Judge Bert Bam in February.

In another case involving a 3-year-old, Judge Neil Tuchten sentenced a man from Mamelodi to an effective 10 years in jail for beating the child to death for soiling himself.

The judge remarked on the anguish the child must have felt while being beaten by William Tjane, 35, saying he found it hard to put the horror of it behind him.

Tebetso Phahle apparently cried out “mamma” before his mother found him on a bed in a house she shared with Tjane.

She rushed him to hospital in a taxi, but by that time he was dead.

Tjane claimed the boy fell out of the tub when he tried to clean him up after he had soiled himself.

In another case, the wife of a psychiatrist who killed their two sons, Ivero, 2 and Keyondre, 6, will hear next year what her punishment is. Rehithile Katlego Matjane, 34, was convicted of the boys’ murder, but blamed her actions on medication she was taking.

She fetched the boys from school in April 2015 and drove to a remote spot near Hammanskraal where she shot them dead. She claimed she had no recollection, saying she had temporary amnesia owing to non-prescription painkillers she took earlier that day.

The mother who said she loved her children dearly and would never intentionally harm them, has had another child since the boys’ death.

Sex, pornography, drugs and child abuse featured in the trial of the man nicknamed the “Springs monster” and his wife.

The pair, who may not be identified to protect their children, stand accused of the attempted murder of their 12-year-old son, the abuse of all five of their children and well as a host of other charges.

The father pleaded not guilty while the mother blamed everything on the father, saying she was a victim too and was unable to defend and protect the children.

The case made headlines when the boy escaped from the family’s prison-like-home and alerted neighbours. The children are being cared for in a place of safety and the parents should hear their fate next year.

In another case, the parents of a 2-month-old baby boy – one of a twin – have been spared jail, but their punishment is to look at their child and deal with the damage they had caused.

The child, only identified as Baby J, was left with extreme brain damage, is spastic and cannot walk, eat by himself or talk, five years after he was severely beaten.

He suffered a cracked skull and bleeding on the brain. His parents, in whose care he was, simply said they had no idea what had happened.

Judge Eben Jordaan decided that sending the parents to jail would leave the children destitute, so he handed down a five year suspended sentence, house arrest and community service.

A Pretoria father is on the run after being found guilty of child pornography charges.

The victims included his own children, a girl of 4 and boy of 3, of whom he took naked photos. Judge Ronel Tolmay, who viewed the pictures remarked that “it was an extremely unpleasant and disturbing experience”.

In another case, Anna Mahlangu was sentenced to 15 years’ imprisonment for burning her foster child who later died. She said the child stole money and she wanted to teach her a lesson by pouring paraffin over her and pretending to set her alight. She thought she’d be able to put out the fire but things quickly got out of control and the teen burnt to death.

We do not know what 2018 holds but these cases are some of the most tragic I have reported on. Parenting may be a tough job, but it comes with parental responsibilities to support and protect the child or children. If that becomes intolerable, there are many organisations in the community that can help.

Pretoria News

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