Murdered baby’s injuries detailed

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Pretoria - A pathologist detailed on Monday the horrific injuries suffered by a three-week old baby, whose stepfather is on trial in the High Court in Pretoria for allegedly abusing and murdering the child.

Christiaan “Chris” Oldewage, 28, pleaded not guilty to a charge of murdering his wife Juanita's baby Christiaan “Stiaan” in December 2011.

The baby died of multiple injuries, including a fractured skull, 16 rib fractures, a bruised lung and bleeding kidney, hours after being admitted to the Montana Hospital, in the north of Pretoria.

Oldewage's wife Juanita, who was charged with him, committed suicide in August by hanging herself in her boyfriend's flat.

Pathologist Lorraine Prinsloo testified that the baby, which weighed four kilograms, had a severe skull fracture, a laceration to the lining of the brain and 14 fractured ribs, two of which had been fractured twice.

There was also blood in his abdominal cavity, and he had bruised lungs and haemorrhages in the area of the lung, intestines, adrenal gland, kidney, and between the layers that cover the brain.

Prinsloo said babies' bones were soft and pliable and it took a lot of pressure to fracture the skull.

“Blunt force would cause a fracture like that, for example hitting the baby's head against a surface or dropping the baby.

“It is possible to sustain this type of fracture in a fall off a bed, but in accidental falls like that, usually there is no other injury to the brain or haemorrhages.

“It's improbable that the skull fracture was caused by a fall from a bed.

“Except for the injuries, he was an otherwise healthy baby,” she said.

Prinsloo testified that although the rib fractures were fresh and that the skull fracture was less than three days old, it was likely all the injuries were sustained at the same time.

She said a lot of pressure was needed to fracture the ribs, and that this could have been caused by squeezing the chest or applying any form of blunt force.

A blow to the abdomen, or forcing the baby down on a hard surface would have caused the injuries to his abdomen and kidney.

She said all the injuries, and blood loss, had caused the infant's death.

Constable Marius Dege testified that Juanita Oldewage at one stage phoned him, complaining that her husband was assaulting her baby.

Both smelled of alcohol and Mr Oldewage was drunk.

He blamed their baby cat for the scratches and complained that his wife was assaulting him because she thought he had assaulted the baby.

Dege saw scratch marks on the baby's face and upper body and said they looked like human scratch marks.

He warned the couple he would take the baby away if they kept on fighting, but relented when Mrs Oldewage asked him not to take the child.

Judge Bert Bam wanted to know from Dege why he did not take the child or at least report the incident.

“I don't understand your conduct. You thought it was reasonably serious. You didn't think it was the cat. Why would you do nothing about it? What motivated you? The child was a tiny baby of two-weeks-old.”

Dege said Mr Oldewage had been aggressive and had not wanted to listen to reason, but later calmed down.

The mother had asked him not to take the child. The baby was in her arms and was not crying when he left, he said.

The baby's great-grandmother Dorothea Engelbrecht and her daughter Karin Viviers were both in tears when they testified about his short life.

Engelbrecht said the couple rejected her help after Stiaan's birth and that she was told Mr Oldewage knew how to raise babies as he had raised his brother.

When she visited them early in December, she saw scratch marks on the baby's face and head, but Mr Oldewage had said the cat was in the baby's crib.

He and Mrs Oldewage were drinking and he was very aggressive.

The baby was well, but dirty when Engelbrecht and her daughter took him on a shopping trip two days before his death.

Engelbrecht told her daughter she wished she could raise the child herself, because Mr Oldewage did not have a job.

Engelbrecht and Mrs Oldewage took the baby to hospital later that night because he would not stop crying, but they were sent home.

She later received a call from a boy who said the baby was no longer breathing and her daughter later phoned to say he had died.

Viviers testified that she had to pay money before the baby could be treated at hospital on the night before his death.

Mrs Oldewage had prayed and been emotional while the baby was treated.

Mr Oldewage was mostly outside and later left, saying he was tired. When she phoned to say he should urgently go to the hospital, he said the baby was “not that ill”, although he did arrive later.

She said that when she saw the baby a few days before his death he was “not a clean, happy baby”.

The trial continues.


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