‘Baby was happy hours before death’

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Christaan Engelbrecht listens to his advocate during proceedings. Photo: Masi Losi

Pretoria - Baby Stian Oldewage was a happy, smiling infant a few hours before he was rushed to hospital where it was established that he had 16 broken ribs, a fractured skull and several internal injuries that caused his death.

This was the evidence of Christiaan Oldewage, the stepfather of 3-and-a-half-week-old Stian, who is accused of murder and child abuse following the baby’s death on December 13, 2011.

The child died a few hours after being admitted to the Montana Hospital, north of Pretoria.

Oldewage on Tuesday took the stand in the Pretoria High Court to defend himself against the charges.

He was adamant that he loved and adored the baby and married the child’s mother shortly before Stian’s birth on November 16, 2011, as he wanted the child to have his name and so “the child would have somewhere to go”.

Christiaan was adamant that he had no idea how it came about that the baby suffered multiple fractures and other injuries, including a clear abrasion on his scrotum and a bleeding lung and kidney, as well as bleeding on the brain.

His wife Juanita Oldewage was due to be tried with him, but she committed suicide by hanging herself shortly after appearing in court earlier this year.

“I cannot explain how the baby got the injuries,” Christiaan told Judge Bert Bam.

He said the child, prior to the day of his death, got scratched in the face as their pet kitten tried to jump into the pram and tried to cling to the baby’s face in its bid.

According to him, he pulled the kitten off the baby and smeared the child’s face with Vaseline.

The night when the baby was taken to hospital he (the accused) was fairly drunk and woke up to drink water.

“I heard strange noises and noted he battled to breathe. I picked him up and he passed out in my arms. I woke up my wife to tell her we had to take him to hospital.”

Christiaan said while the nursing staff tried to resuscitate the child, he left the hospital as he was tired but later got a phone call that things did not look good and he returned to hospital.

“I did not know at that stage the baby was dead. Someone asked whether I wanted to hold the baby… He looked as if he was asleep.

“As I was holding him I felt he was cold and I asked the nurse why. She then said he had been dead for half an hour.”

He and his wife were arrested at the hospital.

Christiaan told the court Stian was a good baby who hardly ever cried. “He was definitely a healthy baby and gave us no problems…

“The first time I realised something was wrong was when he passed out in my arms, he said.

The accused said they had been having a braai at home a few hours before the child was rushed to hospital.

“He was outside with us in his pram. He was happy and he swung his little arms about. It appeared as if he wanted to laugh.”

Prosecutor Cornelia Harmzen put it to the accused that by that time Stian must have already been severely injured.

“Why do you think the baby died?” the prosecutor asked.

The accused responded that it must have been because of the multiple fractures, for which he had no explanation.

“I just thought he was very sick, but I never thought he could die.

“It feels as if people are trying to portray me as this monster who did not care about the baby.”

“You killed the baby as you were jealous because it was not yours,” Harmzen told him. She said he had never once tried to enquire who had hurt the baby, as he full well knew it was him. Christiaan responded that this was “ridiculous”.

A nurse, Rebecca Leketi, testified that when she asked for answers at hospital as to what had happened, the father said nothing, but the mother said the kitten attacked the child. “I did not believe this and again asked… The mother asked whether she and her husband could talk outside. They returned and she told me his 11-year-old brother gave the child a bottle. The bottle fell and the child tried to pick it up, holding the baby. The baby’s head then hit the ground.”

As this could not have caused the injuries, the police were called. Leketi said she later heard the mother repeatedly telling her husband “I told you so, I told you so.”

Pretoria News

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