I’m no monster, says baby death dad

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Pretoria News

Christaan Oldewage scribbles some notes before the start of his trial in the Pretoria High Court. Picture: Masi Losi

Pretoria - He was not the monster people claimed he was and never assaulted his wife or her three-week old baby, a Pretoria man testified in the High Court in Pretoria on Tuesday.

Christiaan (Chris) Oldewage said he could not explain how his stepson, three-week-old baby Stiaan, sustained a fractured skull, 16 rib fractures, and multiple internal injuries which led to his death on December 13, 2011.

Oldewage's wife Juanita was arrested with him, but committed suicide in August this year.

He said he thought the bruises on the baby's head were from being scratched by a cat about a week before.

He later said in cross-examination the injuries were so severe his wife took the baby to hospital.

“The baby's lips and eyes were swollen. I don't know what caused it. Maybe he was allergic to the cat,” he said.

Oldewage said on the day before baby Stiaan's death he had heard a “strange noise” in the baby's cot. He woke up his wife to get the baby to hospital, where CPR was started because the baby could not breathe.

He went home early that morning because his 12-year-old brother who was with him was tired. When he returned to the hospital he asked staff why the baby, who looked like he was sleeping, was so cold when he held him. They told him the boy had already been dead for about half an hour.

“The baby was okay. He was a very good baby. He never cried a lot. I didn't assault the baby under any circumstances. It is ridiculous to say that I did,” he said.

Oldewage admitted drinking too much after losing his job shortly after the baby's death, but denied assaulting his wife or stepson.

In cross-examination by prosecutor Cornelia Harmzen, Oldewage said his wife gave the baby his last bath on the night before his death because he was fairly drunk and did not want to handle the child.

“It's dangerous to handle a baby when you're drunk,” he said.

Questioned by Judge Bert Bam, he said only he, his brother and wife had been at home that night. He did not think his brother had assaulted the baby, but it was possible that his wife did.

“There were serious injuries. A skull fracture, broke ribs, brain bleeding. Wouldn't you have seen it?” Bam asked.

“When he went to sleep nothing was wrong with the baby. He was still quite happy,” Oldewage answered.

Harmzen put it to him that the motive for the murder was that he had a problem with the fact that the baby was not his.

Oldewage said he had accepted the child as his own and had often given it attention, for example playing “airplane” with him. He could not remember if he supported the baby's neck while doing so.

Dr Christiaan van Wyk testified that the baby was blue and not breathing when he was admitted to hospital. Doctors struggled in vain for four hours to save him. Van Wyk said he never seen such serious injuries, even in victims of car accidents.

The trial continues.


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