High Court Reporter
WHEN Baby Wade was bashed on the head and assaulted repeatedly, his mother did not lift a finger to stop this, and instead watched him die slowly.
This was the verdict of Pretoria High Court Judge Cynthia Pretorius, who convicted Marissa Rudman, 36, and her former lover, Nolan Schoeman, 34, yesterday of murder.
Their son died two months after he was born in 2009.
The court found that Schoeman continually assaulted and abused the baby and that he was well aware Wade could die as a result.
However, the court could not find that Rudman contributed to the injuries suffered by the child.
“She was, however, aware that he assaulted the baby throughout his short life.
“Accused one (Rudman), after each and every assault, intentionally became an accessory after the fact by not reporting accused two (Schoeman) and not preventing him from continuing.”
Rudman had enabled Schoeman to injure the child during the two months he was in this world, the judge said.
Her version, that she did not see his broken arms and other injuries, was rejected. “She bathed and fed him, yet could not explain his injuries,” she said.
By the time Baby Wade was admitted to the Steve Biko Academic Hospital on April 4, 2009, he was near death. Yet both parents swore to the court that they did not notice any injuries – apart from redness in his face, which they attributed to a blocked nose.
By then the baby had two broken forearms, which were healing, 22 fractured ribs – which were also healing – a contusion to his left lung caused by a severe blow to his chest, and such severe head injuries that his brain was dying.
Also, bruises covered his body, face and were even under his feet.
Doctors who treated the infant testified that the blows to the child must have been excessive as babies’ bones and ribs were flexible.
The parents testified they had no idea who did this to their baby.
But Judge Pretorius said they were the only ones who cared for him.
While the evidence was mostly circumstantial, she said, it was corroborated by testimony from doctors and from a boy who was then aged seven and who may not be identified.
The boy testified that he saw Schoeman bashing the baby on the head. Rudman corroborated this when she testified that the boy came running out of the bedroom a few days before the baby’s death and told her Schoeman was “hurting” Wade.
Doctors testified that the finger marks and bruises on the baby’s face, chest and neck would have been noticed by anyone. “Anyone would immediately have observed that there was something wrong with the baby,” the judge said.
The parents rushed the baby to hospital only after he started screaming in a high-pitched voice and got convulsions.
The first nurse who saw Baby Wade asked the parents whether someone had dropped him.
Rudman, who cried bitterly during the trial, testified that Schoeman abused drugs and assaulted her.
Judge Pretorius remarked yesterday that the court got the impression throughout the trial that Rudman was more upset by Schoeman’s treatment of her than by the baby’s condition when he was in hospital.
“She was crying every time she testified how he assaulted her, which was not the case when she testified on Baby Wade’s condition.”
The judge said Rudman had made a poor impression on her. “The court found it strange” that she had been crying during the proceedings until the court told her it would rely on facts and not emotion.
“After this admonishment there were no more tears. It is also telling that, according to Rudman, she suspected Schoeman of killing Baby Wade, but stayed with him for two years after bail was granted.”
Rudman and Schoeman sat far apart in the dock and ignored each other, as before.
While Schoeman showed no emotion when convicted of murder, Rudman sat with her head in her hands and shed a few tears.
The court acquitted both – on a technicality – on charges of child abuse relating to the other boy. They had been charged under an old act that is not longer applicable.
The court upped Rudman’s bail to R1 500, after she promised to return to court for sentencing.
She is now living in Cape Town with her new “life partner” and says she is trying to make a living by organising international music events.
“I know what lies ahead… I am aware murder carries a possible life sentence,” Rudman said.
The matter was adjourned to October 18 for pre-sentencing reports.
Sentencing will take place on November 5.