Pretoria - The sad tale of little Poppie van der Merwe, 3, emerged in the Gauteng High Court, Pretoria on Monday, after her mother and stepfather appeared in court in connection with her death.
The angelic looking girl died on arrival at a Brits Hospital on October 25, last year.
Her body was riddled with injuries, from head to toe. It is claimed that her stepfather, Kobus Koekemoer, had kicked and beaten her to death.
Koekemoer and Poppies’ biological mother, Louisa Koekemoer, pleaded not guilty. They however, remained mum about their defence.
Both are facing four charges, which include assault with the intent to do grievous bodily harm, alternatively child abuse.
It is claimed that the couple over several months abused Poppie and a five-year-old boy by shouting at them, hitting and kicking them, pulling and twisting their ears, dousing them with icy water in winter and throwing them against solid objects.
According to the defence, the mother and her children fled from Westonaria to Orania after the woman’s former partner assaulted her and the children. Her new husband Kobus later joined them in Orania.
The court heard the evidence from several witnesses how there were warning lights indicating that the children were abused after they moved to Orania.
People in the town reported to the authorities that something was not right.
A neighbour told a woman in the town, who acted as a councillor, that he suspected the children were being abused. A doctor who examined especially Poppie on two occasions, noted an array of injuries on the child and even her daycare teacher noted injuries.
Some of the witnesses even testified how terrified the child appeared and that she woke-up at night screaming from nightmares.
It, however, became clear during the evidence that although the warning bells sounded, the authorities have failed the little girl.
Social services in Orania said they monitored the family, the doctor said she although she noted the injuries, she did not report it as she thought that the local social services were handling the matter.
Social services said they contacted the social workers at the nearby Hopetown to step in, but never received any feedback from there. The social worker in Hopetown said she never received any correspondence regarding the children.
Although Poppies’ teacher on Sunday shed a tear while testifying, she too, did not report the injuries as she thought the matter was being handled by social services. A nurse who saw the children, also did not act as she thought the matter was being handled.
Judge Bert Bam told these witnesses that he could not understand how they never acted by not calling the police. It emerged that the police were for the first time notified on the day when Poppie died.
The judge exclaimed that he did not know what was wrong with these witnesses who were obliged to report what they saw to the police, yet they simply did nothing.