Pretoria - A Pretoria man was convicted by the High Court in Pretoria on Wednesday of abusing and murdering his three-and-a-half-week-old stepson.
“The accused's evidence that nothing was wrong with the baby before he fell unconscious is so improbable that his version can be rejected as a blatant lie,” Judge Bert Bam said.
He found Christiaan “Chris” Oldewage, 29, guilty of the murder of his wife Juanita's baby son Stiaan. He died in Montana hospital in Pretoria on the night of December 12, 2011.
Juanita Oldewage, who was charged with her husband, committed suicide in August.
The baby died of multiple injuries, including a skull fracture, brain injuries, broken ribs, severe internal injuries and bleeding.
The doctor who treated the boy after he was admitted to hospital and a pathologist testified that severe blunt force injury and pressure were necessary to cause a baby's supple bones to break.
The child's great-grandmother and a police constable testified that they had seen deep scratch marks on the baby's face and upper body when he was about a week-and-a-half old. Bam rejected Oldewage's claims that a cat scratched the baby.
Oldewage had no explanation for the baby's severe injuries. He denied resenting the baby because it was not his child.
Bam said it was clear the baby sustained the injuries within 24 hours before his admission to hospital.
He said it was a pity that Constable Marnus Dege had failed to take any action after Mrs Oldewage complained to him that her husband was abusing the baby, and after himself seeing the extent of the baby's injuries.
“It not only amounts to a contravention of the Child Protection Act but was also a serious dereliction of duty that probably had serious consequences. It resulted in the child's death,” Bam said.
Helen Mabapa, for Oldewage, argued he should be sentenced to less than 15 years' imprisonment, especially because he was a first offender and had heart problems.
Prosecutor Celeste Smit asked for a sentence of more than 25
years, saying the brutality of the assault was a severely aggravating factor.
She argued that the baby must have suffered indescribable pain. Bam however said the baby would almost immediately have lost consciousness with such severe injuries.
The aggravating factors in the case were overwhelming and the only thing in Oldewage's favour was his clean criminal record, Bam said. It was the worst possible form of child abuse for which Oldewage had shown no remorse whatsoever.
Baby Stiaan's great-grandmother Dorothea Engelbrecht burst into tears after Oldewage's conviction.
“I am glad that it has finally reached this stage. I'm also happy that the judge said Chris had murdered him.
“I'm not excusing my granddaughter, but she's not here to say what had happened. I'm happy that at least the judge said the little baby would immediately have lost consciousness and would not have felt the pain,” she said.
Oldewage will be sentenced on Thursday.