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Pretoria - “He was not supposed to die. I should have protected him. I feel like the worst mother on earth.”
This was the evidence of Marissa Rudman, mother of two-month-old Baby Wade, who was murdered by his parents nearly four years ago.
In taking the stand in mitigation of sentence on Monday, Rudman sobbed bitterly. At one stage she became so emotional that the court had to adjourn.
Pretoria High Court Judge Cynthia Pretorius last year convicted Rudman and the baby’s father, Nolan Schoeman, of murder.
Wade was born in February 2009 but died two months later in the Steve Biko hospital because of brain injuries. A doctor testified that by the time the child got to hospital, part of his brain was already dying. The boy had 22 broken ribs, a fractured arm which was already healing and bruises all over his body.
The judge found that Schoeman continuously assaulted and abused the baby, but Rudman did not lift a finger to stop him: “She instead slowly watched him die.”
The court, however, did not find that Rudman contributed to the injuries suffered by the baby.
Despite the verdict that she knew what was going on and did nothing to help her baby, Rudman still insists that she saw nothing and had no idea her child was being abused by self-confessed drug user Schoeman.
“I take full responsibility, but I did not see anything. I did not do this with intent…”
When told by the State that she did not seem to have real remorse for her baby’s death, Rudman said: “I have more than remorse. It is not just remorse… I agree that I was negligent, but I did not see anything,” she said in tears.
Because she never saw her child being abused, she also could not assist the State with its case as to what had happened, Rudman said.
Asked by the State how she felt about Baby Wade’s death, Rudman said: “I loved my child… I hate myself. I have to live with this hate every day because I did not protect my child… I sometimes cannot breathe when I think of it.”
She said she grew up in a dysfunctional family and was physically abused by Schoeman while she was pregnant with Wade. The court also heard she was pregnant four times – one baby was given up for adoption, one was aborted, Wade was murdered and another lived with relatives.
Rudman said if sentenced to correctional supervision, she would subject herself to all its program-mes. She agreed that she needed psychological counselling as well as a course in parenting skills.