Pretoria - The State asked the Gauteng High Court, Pretoria on Tuesday to convict both the biological mother of Poppie van der Merwe and the 3-year-old’s stepfather of her murder.
“They were the only people there. They had a common purpose to kill her,” Prosecutor Salome Scheepers said.
She argued that it did not matter who gave the final death blow, both were equally guilty of her death.
Kobus Koekemoer and his wife Louisa, Poppie’s biological mother, are facing a charge of murder in the Gauteng High Court, Pretoria, following the child’s death in October last year. Poppie’s body was riddled with bruises, but she had died of a brain injury.
The accused were blaming each other for the child’s death.
Judge Bert Bam will on Wednesday deliver his verdict.
He remarked that there was no direct evidence before the court as to who had done what, but at this stage, it was clear to him that the “people in Orania did very little” about the complaints that the children were being abused for months. The judge said he will, in his judgment, express himself more strongly in this regard.
Scheepers said it seemed as if the people of Orania wanted to portray a picture that all went well there.
“It is shocking that they would cover the abuse of children,” Judge Bam again remarked.
He said the court will have to rely on inferential reasoning as to conclude what had happened.
The only person who gave direct evidence in this regard was Poppie’s brother, aged six, who testified in camera. Given his age, the judge said one had to be careful in evaluating his evidence.
The boy, who may not be identified, blamed his stepfather, who he repeatedly said killed Poppie. He said that after his stepfather had assaulted Poppie, his little sister lay still on the bed, with her Teddy Bear close to her. He said after this he “could never play with her again.”
He also testified that his mother did nothing, apart from standing in the doorway while Kobus tried to revive the child with water in the bathroom.
“She (the mother) condoned this because she did nothing to help her child,” Scheepers said.
While the parents in the past blamed the school teachers and other for the bruises on the children, there was no one else than the accused present in the hours leading to Poppie’s death.
Scheepers said it was clear that after the couple had moved from Orania to Brits a few weeks prior to Poppie’s death, the assaults on the child intensified. This was because the authorities in Orania kept a close eye on the family, although they did not act.
“It seems that they wanted to catch-up in Brits for what they could not do in Orania.”
Scheepers said the pictures of Poppie’s lifeless body showed that there was hardly a spot where there was not a bruise. The judge remarked that it was simply shocking if one had regard to the pictures.
He said it was clear that this child was for some time assaulted into such a state that she probably fell unconscious. The accused earlier testified that Poppie used to play a game where she would pretend that she was dead.
“I don’t believe this dead story for a minute. How can a three-year-old pretend she is dead? She was probably unconscious,” the judge remarked.
He also remarked that it was striking that both accused, in accusing each other, described actions which involved head injuries.
The mother said before giving Poppie the final kick in the stomach, her husband bashed her head against the kitchen cupboard. He, in turn, described how the mother had flung the child out of the bedroom door as she was livid because Poppie had soiled her bed. According to him Poppie’s head then hit the wall.
Kobus testified that he did not interfere, as the mother was chastising her child. But judge Bam remarked this was “nonsense.”
It was argued on behalf of Kobus that he had not touched the child that day. Advocate Lana Augustyn said he was mostly in town on the day of her killing and that the evidence showed that the mother was the culprit.
She argued that he did admit that he on occasions gave the children severe hidings, but he was definitely not the killer. She said he raced her lifeless body to the hospital in his car and frantically ran around the hospital crying, in a bid to find help for her.
While counsel for the mother was at a loss for an explanation as to why she did not try and protect her children by finding help, he said no fingers directly pointed at her as the killer. Adrian Nell said until Kobus came into the picture, they were a happy family without problems.
Judge Bam pointed out that the State’s case was that the mother had allowed the children to be assaulted. He said there was a legal and a Constitutional duty on a parent to ensure that the children were not being hurt.
Ther two accused meanwhile ignored each other as usual in the dock, while they listened to the arguments.
Louisa sported a new hairdo, which she had received while awaiting trial in the women’s section of the jail in Pretoria.