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Johannesburg - The parents of Baby Samantha were both found guilty of culpable homicide, child abuse and rape by the Johannesburg High Court on Wednesday morning.
The couple will be sentenced for the lesser charge of culpable homicide rather than murder because Judge Majeke Mabesele ruled that, having considered all the facts before him, it could not be said that the State had proven beyond reasonable doubt that the parents had foreseen that the injuries they had inflicted on their baby girl would cause her death.
The baby’s father, Adriaan Netto, arrived in handcuffs at the Protea Magistrate’s Court where the high court sitting was to take place. He remained shackled throughout the court appearance. At one point he tried to speak to his girlfriend, also his co-accused, who remained out on bail.
Not once did she look at him or respond to him in any way throughout the proceedings.
The 10-month-old baby girl died on March 2 last year at her parents’ plot in Randfontein.
At the time of death the baby had suffered numerous injuries and showed signs of having been raped and sexually assaulted.
During the trial Dr Jessica Clair Meddows-Taylor described the many injuries that she found on Samantha’s body when conducting a post-mortem.
Samantha was underweight, her anus was completely stretched and the tissue around it was damaged. There was no evidence of what might have penetrated her.
There were abrasions around her vagina that could have been the result of rubbing and slapping but no obvious penetration. Six of Samantha’s right ribs were fractured, and four on the left had been broken at some stage prior to her death as they were healing.
There were abrasions on her left cheek, upper lip and the right side of her chest. Her right lung was full of blood and bruised, and the lung tissue was lacerated.
She had a bruise on her abdomen, towards the pelvis.
There was bruising on her forehead, liver and spleen.
Throughout their trial both parents claimed they did not know what had caused the baby’s injuries and distanced themselves from her death.
However, the judge said he rejected both their versions as it couldn’t be reasonably said that this was true. “The accused both were responsible for inflicting the injuries. They had a legal duty to look after her. She was unable to inflict the injuries herself because at the time she was only 10 months old,” Judge Mabesele said, adding that those injuries could not have been caused by her falling off the bed as the parents had claimed in their testimony.
Judge Mabesele ordered that Netto and his partner, the baby’s mother, be taken straight to prison and locked up as their bail was immediately cancelled by his verdict.
The lawyers for Baby Samantha’s mother – who is not being named in order to protect the identities of Samantha’s surviving twin brother and another baby the couple had in March this year – applied immediately for an extension of her bail and were turned down.
Judge Mabesele, in his ruling, said he did not want to open up an opportunity for another escape.
This comes after Netto last week disappeared on the day judgment was to be delivered.
He spent five days on the run before police apprehended him hiding out in bushes near his uncle’s home in Krugersdorp.
But the judge later changed his mind after the prosecutor, advocate Riana Williams, put in a good word for the mother. Her bail was extended and she was allowed to go free. Netto was remanded in custody as his partner left the Protea Magistrate’s Court in tears.
Judge Mabesele will hand down sentence on September 30.