Two weeks before a three-week-old baby died in hospital of multiple injuries, a policeman was called to the mother’s home and told her husband had assaulted the baby.
Although the officer saw scratch marks all over the infant, he did not act.
Baby Christiaan (Stian) Oldewage was about two weeks old when Sinoville policeman Constable Marnus Dege was called to the home of Juanita and Christiaan Oldewage. Juanita called him as she claimed her husband had assaulted the baby. The husband in turn blamed the scratch marks on their pet kitten.
When questioned about this by Pretoria High Court Judge Bert Bam, Dege on Monday said the cat’s paws were way to small to have caused the scratch marks and conceded they may have been caused by a human.
He was grilled by Judge Bam, who time and again asked why Dege, knowing that a crime had been committed, did not do something about it or remove the baby. He said he thought the baby was safe with the mother, although she reeked of alcohol.
Dege was one of the witnesses in the murder and child abuse trial of Christiaan Oldewage, 29, who is accused of battering the infant to such an extent that he died on December 13, 2011 – three-and-a- half weeks after he was born.
Christiaan is not the biological father of Stian, but married the mother, Juanita (Nita) Oldewage shortly before she gave birth.
He now has to face the music alone as his wife committed suicide by hanging herself in August, a few days after she appeared in court for her alleged part in the baby’s death.
On Monday, Christiaan pleaded not guilty to murder and child abuse, but elected to say nothing about his defence.
His advocate put it to one of the witnesses that Christiaan would say he never assaulted the baby. “In fact he adored Stian.”
Dege said he couldn’t remember the date when he was called by Juanita to the flat, but it was towards the end of November. “When I got there they both smelled of alcohol and the man was very drunk…
“He told me it was ridiculous to say he had assaulted the baby and said that the cat had scratched him.”
According to Dege, the child had red marks across his face and upper body.
“I warned them I would take the baby away, but the woman asked me not to do that. I felt she was in a state to look after the child… When I left she had the child in her arms and everyone, including the child, had calmed down.
“Did you not think the child needed medical attention?” the judge asked. The officer said the mother had said she could take care of the baby and that she would take him to a doctor. But the judge wanted to know why he had done nothing. “Why did you not act? It was a two-week-old baby.”
Dege said the child was calm in his mother’s arms.
The judge responded “with scratch marks and all”.
The baby’s maternal grandmother, Dorothea Engelbrecht, said about a week before the child’s death she too, noticed the scratch marks, but was told by Christiaan it was the cat. After she saw the kitten, she believed the accused.
She and her daughter, Karin Viviers, took the baby shopping two days later and according to her, he was fine, apart from the scratch marks. Juanita phoned her that night to say the baby would not stop crying and she went to their flat.
“The baby was moaning terribly and we took him to hospital. A nurse said she thought it was just wind. After she patted him, he was better and we went home.”
Engelbrecht got a call two days later to say the baby was no longer breathing. Viviers said the baby died in his mother’s arms. “Nita was very emotional and said ‘please, don’t let my miracle baby die’.”
Dr Lorraine Prinsloo, who did the autopsy, said baby Stian had 16 rib fractures – two of the ribs had been fractured in two places and she believed a lot of force must have been applied to cause this. He also had a fractured skull, bleeding on the brain, an abrasion on his scrotum and bleeding on one of his lungs and on his right kidney.
She said the fractures to the ribs in particular, were new injuries, and must have been caused a maximum of 24 hours before the baby died. She said, all the injuries combined had caused the infant’s death.
Some of baby Stiaan’s injuries:
* 16 rib fractures – two of the ribs were fractured in two places (a lot of force must have been applied to cause this)
* fractured skull
* bleeding on the brain
* abrasion on his scrotum
* bleeding in one lung
* bleeding in the right kidney
The trial continues.