Baby Wade Schoeman was only two months old when he died in hospital of multiple injuries, including bleeding on the brain and a fractured arm – harm allegedly caused by his parents who are said to have abused him since his birth.
Marissa Rudman and the father of the child, Nolan Schoeman, on Wednesday denied murdering their baby.
The pair are facing three charges in the Pretoria High Court. Two of these relate to Wade.
A third charge is that they neglected and ill-treated another child (who may not be identified as he is a minor) since he was three.
They allegedly beat him and deprived him of food. This child is now eight and has been removed from the care of Rudman.
Both parents admitted that they were drug users at the time during which Wade was allegedly assaulted before his death.
Rudman’s counsel, advocate Karin Alheit, said her client used CAT. Schoeman did not identify his drug of choice, but said in his explanation of plea that he was an absent father because of his drug use.
It is claimed that Wade was abused from birth in February 2009 until he eventually died in the Steve Biko hospital in April that year.
Rudman, in her explanation of plea, denied that she ever ill-treated either of the children or omitted to act when they were abused.
She said she only “realised” that Schoeman had hurt the baby when he was admitted to the Steve Biko hospital.
Schoeman, in his explanation of plea, said he loved Wade very much and never realised the child was being abused. “Nobody told him” the child had been abused. “What happened, happened behind my back,” he stated.
The child was even named after his father, as they wanted to keep the family name alive, he said.
He was an absent father because of his drug use and left most of the parental duties to Rudman, he claimed. “Wade was the love of my life. He was everything to me,” he stated, adding that he “would also like to know who ill-treated his son”.
He also loved the other child and never hurt him, he said. The child was like a son to him and even called him Dad, he added.
Warrant Officer Frederick Schoeman testified that he was called to the hospital on April 7, 2009. There, a doctor told him a child had died because of abuse.
He found the two accused outside the ward and told them their child had died and that he was going to arrest them for murder.
The policeman said the parents sank down on their knees and the woman cried bitterly. The two knelt down, whispering to each other.
Rudman’s former brother-in-law, Dean Collings, testified that Rudman and Schoeman had a stormy relationship.
“There were some good times, but a lot of bad times. There was a lot of physical and verbal abuse.”
Schoeman often sought refuge at his home after a fight. At times his shirt was torn and he was full of blood, after Rudman had assaulted him, Collings said. Rudman often had bruises received from Schoeman.
Collings told the court that Rudman had phoned him at least twice, asking him to assist her as the baby was ill and she wanted to take him to hospital.
On one occasion when he arrived at their house Schoeman banged with a knife on the kitchen table, saying “someone has been at my baby”, Collings said.
One day he witnessed Schoeman continuously throwing a soccer ball at the baby. Rudman told him to stop, but he continued, Collings said.
The State is claiming that Wade was admitted to the Pretoria West Hospital with pneumonia in March 2009, but that his mother discharged him from the hospital and refused him further treatment.
A few days later the baby was admitted to the Steve Biko Academic Hospital with multiple injuries, including a healing rib fracture.
He died in hospital a few days later.
Doctors and a social worker are expected to take the stand on Thursday. The other alleged child victim is expected to testify on Friday.