Pretoria - “Louisa was never an aggressive person. I know my child. She is a soft person and I know she will never abuse her children.”
This was the evidence of Helena Bothma, the mother of Louisa Koekemoer.
Koekemoer and her husband Kobus Koekemoer stand accused of murdering little Poppie van der Merwe, 3. The blonde toddler died in October last year. She was declared dead after she was rushed to hospital by the accused.
The child’s body was riddled with bruises, but the cause of death was a brain injury.
She had allegedly been abused for more than eight months prior to her death and the final blow was allegedly when her head was hit against a wall or cupboard, followed by a kick in the stomach.
Both accused were pointing fingers at the other as the one who had assaulted the child. Louisa said her husband hit the child’s head against the kitchen cupboard the previous night and that he later kicked her in the stomach.
Kobus said his wife flung the child out of the bedroom door that morning as she was livid with Poppie for soiling her bed. According to him, the child’s head had hit the wall.
Bothma took the stand on Monday to testify on behalf of her daughter. She told Judge Bert Bam that Kobus was the culprit and that Louisa was terrified of him. She said Louisa’s fear of her husband was the reason why she never told anyone that Poppie and her six-year-old brother were abused by their stepfather.
Bothma testified that Kobus refused to allow her to visit them in Orania, where she also stayed, after he married her daughter.
She said she once, after the funeral of a family member, bathed her 6-year-old grandson (who may not be identified) and she saw that he had bruises on his backside. The child told her that “Daddy Kobus” had hit him.
“I never spoke to Louisa about it. There was never an opportunity as she was never allowed to spend much time with me.” She later admitted that there was ample time to share her problems when she attended Church services without her husband by her side.
Bothma said she did tell the local dominee at Orania that she suspected that Kobus were hurting the children. “He told me to leave it and not to interfere in their marriage.”
According to her, Louisa also did not tell anyone about the abuse, as she was the type of person who first wanted to see if she could fix the problem, rather than to report her husband to the authorities.
“So this simply went on for months,” Judge Bert Bam asked. Bothma confirmed this and said it took a long time before the authorities were willing to eventually call in the help of the police, if ever.
Bothma also testified about the fact that Poppie often during the night woke up from anxiety attacks or nightmares. She witnessed this when she had to help take care of the children while the accused were away for a week. “She woke up in a terrified state and cried and ran around the room. We usually struggled to calm her again.”
Bothma also said she had no idea that the family were moving from Orania to Brits a few weeks before Poppies’ death.
“My daughter phoned me the day after they had moved and told me she did not know where she was, but that she was somewhere in the bush.”
Dabbing the tears from her eyes, Bothma said if her daughter had to be punished by the court, it would be her (Bothma’s) fault, as she had raised her to be a good person.
The defence meanwhile closed its case and Judge Bam indicated that he will deliver his judgment on Wednesday.