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Cape Town - Courts must “jealously” protect the rights of children, who are among the most vulnerable in society, a Western Cape High Court judge said when sentencing an Atlantis father to 25 years in jail for murdering his two-year-old son.
Judge Robert Henney sentenced John Hendricks, 25, to 22 years in jail for murder and just over five years for assaulting and kidnapping the boy’s mother, Roxanne Groepies.
Parts of the sentences for four counts against Hendricks were ordered to run concurrently, effectively bringing his term behind bars to 25 years.
Hendricks admitted in court on Tuesday that he was angered when his son, Theophulus Groepies, soiled his nappy, shouted at him, picked him up and threw him to the ground three times.
Judge Henney said on Thursday: “If once wasn’t enough. He continued to do it two more times.”
And what made matters worse is that neither Hendricks nor Groepies took the child for medical attention.
Hendricks earlier confessed to physically attacking Groepies with a broom and belt and holding her captive in a caravan.
In sentencing Hendricks, Judge Henney said the proposed sentence of 18 years for murdering Theophulus - as suggested in a plea and sentence agreement he entered into with the State - was not justified. “The court was more inclined to impose a 25-year sentence as it was more suitable and justified,” Judge Henney said.
The fact that Hendricks maintained that he wanted to plead guilty showed that he could be rehabilitated, the judge said.
There were no exceptional and compelling circumstances that could warrant a lesser sentence than the prescribed minimum sentence of 15 years in jail for murdering a child.
Courts could however, at their discretion, impose a more severe period of imprisonment.
Other charges against Hendricks included the assaults on Groepies during December 2012 and on February 1 this year. Hendricks admitted that he repeatedly hit Groepies with his fist, a wooden broom and belt because he saw her talking to a friend while walking home.
Hendricks also pleaded guilty to kidnapping Groepies and holding her captive in a caravan after the assault in February. She managed to escape on February 4 and notified the police, who arrested Hendricks four days later. He has been in custody since.
After the court adjourned, an emotional Groepies, 21, did not want to speak to the media. But when asked, she said she no longer loved Hendricks.
The couple had been in a live-in relationship since Groepies was 18. Theophulus was killed in March 2011 and they have another child, born last month.
Groepies now lives with her grandmother, Johanna Groepies, who said she was relieved the case was over.
A man who identified himself as Hendricks’s cousin, but who did not want to reveal his name, said their family had to accept the sentence.
“What can we do? We must accept it. It’s the court’s decision. It was a child,” the man said.