Professor Gerard Labuschagne, a clinical psychologist and former head of the SAPS profiling unit, took the stand on Thursday to testify on behalf of the prosecution in the trial of the so-called “Springs monster” and his now former wife.
The couple are facing a string of charges relating to the abuse and neglect of their five children, aged between 3 and 16. They were arrested in 2014 after their then 11-year-old son, who was severely beaten by his father, ran for help to the neighbours.
They alerted the police, who together with social services, raided the double-storey house. The Gauteng High Court, Pretoria, earlier heard evidence from the 39-year-old mother that she and her children virtually lived like prisoners in the house.
Surveillance cameras were lined up outside the house to record any movement and security guards employed by her husband manned the entrance.
The wife said she was helpless to defend her children, as she was also a victim of her husband’s abuse.
Labuschagne testified that he didn’t assess the woman, but he spoke to her when he was called to the house during 2014, shortly after the raid.
He described the house as extremely large and extremely filthy.
“I was absolutely shocked by the state of the house,” Labuschagne said. He told Judge Eben Jordaan that he had seen a lot during his time as a police profiler, but nothing as disgusting as what he found that day.
He said rats were running around in the lounge while he was speaking to the woman.
The kitchen was even worse, with dirty pots in the sink. “Inside one of the dirty pots was an empty chutney bottle. A rat had climbed into it and appeared to have suffocated to death.”
Labuschagne said he would never have spent a night in that house.
Also read: Pics: Inside the Springs ‘house of horror’
He was called to the stand to comment on certain aspects of forensic criminologist Dr Pixie du Toit’s report, which she had submitted on behalf of the mother.
The woman said she could not be held accountable for what happened to her children, as she was helpless to defend them.
Du Toit supported this defence and told the court that the woman suffered from battered woman syndrome and Stockholm Syndrome.
Du Toit “diagnosed” the husband as suffering from an antisocial personality disorder.
She also diagnosed the woman as suffering from depression and post traumatic stress disorder.
Labuschagne said he could not deny that the mother was a battered woman, but the question remained to what degree.
She did appear to have been a person trapped in a relationship characterised by domestic violence, he said, but without proper tests done on her by a qualified professional, it could not be determined to what extent her relationship with her husband affected her ability to make independent decisions.
He was highly critical of Du Toit who came to certain conclusions, and said she was not a registered psychologist and thus not allowed to make assessments and come to certain of her findings.
He also questioned how Du Toit could have diagnosed the man without ever assessing him. Labuschagne said it could be that he had suffered from a number of disorders, but this could only be ascertained through proper assessments done by a trained psychologist.
He concluded that the assessment conducted by Du Toit could not be seen as a reliable assessment of the mother.
The trial was postponed to February 19, when both the prosecution and the defence are expected to call their own psychologists to testify.
The father, however, earlier indicated that he would not testify in his own defence. This was in spite of his wife blaming everything on him.