Pretoria - “We will now have to make peace with the fact that little Stian was murdered. It is not our place to forgive him, he will one day have to answer to God.”
This was the reaction of Dorothea Engelbrecht, the great-grandmother of the murdered three-and-a-half-week-old baby, after the child’s stepfather, Christiaan Oldewage, was sentenced to life imprisonment.
A stone-faced Oldewage made his way to the holding cells immediately after Pretoria High Court Judge Bert Bam sentenced him.
He had not shown any apparent emotion during his trial, not even when shown pictures of the dead infant’s injuries.
During sentencing on Thursday, Judge Bam commented on Oldewage’s lack of remorse and said if he had shown true remorse, it would probably have counted in his favour.
The defence this week called for a 15 year jail sentence, while the State asked for 25 years. But Judge Bam was of the opinion that the killing was so heinous that it warranted the ultimate penalty.
The aggravating factors far outweighed Oldewage’s personal circumstances, the judge said.
The baby had 16 fractured ribs, a fractured skull and internal injuries. A doctor said these must have been caused by a severe blow to the boy’s little body.
Baby Stian died in the Montana Hospital in the early hours of December 13, 2011, a few hours after he was admitted.
The judge said Oldewage refused to tell the truth about what happened. He insisted that he knew nothing and that Stian was a happy baby shortly before he was rushed to hospital in an unconscious state.
“The only inference is that he wanted to kill the baby,” the judge said.
Some of the aggravating factors, said the judge, were that the baby was a totally defenceless three-and-a-half-week old infant, Oldewage and his wife Juanita (who committed suicide by hanging herself in August) were supposed to take care of him, and that the baby did nothing to warrant his parents’ actions.
All the witnesses, including Oldewage, described Stian as a well behaved and good baby.
The judge said it was clear that Stian had also been abused before he received the fatal blow shortly before his death.
A doctor testified that the injuries that led to Stian’s death had been inflicted at most 24 hours before his death.
Only Oldewage, the child’s mother, and an 11-year-old child were at home with the baby.
Oldewage was adamant that it was neither his wife, nor the 11-year-old, who called Stian her “miracle baby”.
The State earlier said its case against the mother was that she knew about her husband abusing the child, but did nothing to prevent it. A nurse testified that after Stian’s death she heard the mother repeatedly telling her husband “I told you so”.
Family members earlier testified that they noticed scratch marks across the boy’s face and body when he was about a week-and-a-half old. Oldewage blamed their pet kitten, which he claimed tried to jump into the baby’s pram, but the judge rejected this as a lie.
“It is logical that the baby must have endured a lot of pain (when he was hit or punched). What happened to him is shocking and an evil and inhumane deed which fills one with horror,” the judge said.
He referred to the government’s ongoing campaign of no violence against women and children and said it did not seem to have the desired effect, so it was up to the courts to show culprits this kind of behaviour would not be tolerated.
Sending Oldewage to jail for life, the judge said it followed that he may never work with children.