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Cape Town - The Western Cape High Court will sentence a man on Thursday for throwing his infant son to the floor of his home several times in a fit of rage because he had soiled his nappy.
John Hendricks, 25, of Atlantis near Cape Town, appeared on Tuesday before Judge Robert Henney, who said he needed time to consider an appropriate sentence.
The trial would have taken the form of a plea bargain agreement, but the judge said the suggested sentence of 18 years for murder was too lenient.
Defence counsel Ken Klopper told the court he had explained the implications of this to Hendricks, who had chosen to continue with the plea-bargaining proceedings, but would leave the sentencing to the court.
The other option had been to convert the proceedings into a fully-fledged trial.
The judge warned that he did not want Hendricks to later say that he had misunderstood his counsel’s advice, or that confusion or nervousness had led him to mistakenly decide to remain with the plea-bargain proceedings.
The circumstances of the case qualified Hendricks for a minimum sentence of 15 years, but Klopper himself pushed the sentence to 18 years, because of the gravity of the matter.
The judge said he had a sentence of 25 years in mind, but he needed to think about it.
Klopper said he had asked Hendricks why a young father of his age would behave in such a monstrous manner towards his own child.
Hendricks had explained that he was unemployed and had alcohol and drug problems.
The mother of the child, who lived with Hendricks as his “common law wife”, was employed, which meant that Hendricks had to care for the child in the day while the mother was at work.
Hendricks is to be sentenced on charges of murder, seriously assaulting the child’s mother and kidnapping her.
On the kidnapping charge, he kept the mother hostage in their home after assaulting her.
The judge said the toddler had suffered convulsions after being repeatedly thrown to the floor, and Hendricks and the mother had then left the boy to sleep.
The boy was left sleeping the whole of the next day, and was rushed to hospital only when the convulsions started again.
The judge said it worried him that it had taken the couple such a long time to take the baby for medical treatment, and also that they had decided to lie to the hospital authorities that the baby had fallen off a high bed.
State advocate Nadia Ajam told the court that both the child's mother and her own mother, were in court attending the proceedings.
She said: “We have not yet gotten a full answer as to why a father would do this to his own child.”
Ajam said the condition of the toddler on arrival at the Red Cross Children’s Memorial Hospital had prompted the doctors to involve social workers.
The case continues on Thursday.