Poppie’s stepfather Kobus Koekemoer in the Gauteng High Court, Pretoria, yesterday.Picture: Jacques Naude/ANA
Pretoria - The stepfather of 3-year-old Poppie van der Merwe - allegedly kicked and beaten to death - at first said he “whipped her and she collapsed”.

When he heard the police would be called, he changed his version, testified the doctor who declared Poppie dead on arrival at a Brits hospital on October 25 last year.

Dr Richard Gumbu told the Gauteng High Court, Pretoria, that Poppie's body was covered in bruises - she even suffered bruises to her private parts.

He was on duty at the emergency unit when Poppie’s mother Louisa Koekemoer and her stepfather, Kobus Koekemoer, rushed her to hospital.

WATCH: 'Poppie had bruises to her private parts'

Gumbu noted injuries and bruises - from her head to her legs- but told Judge Bert Bam there were many more injuries which he did not note down.

He asked the parents what had happened to the child and the stepfather said he was “whipping her and she collapsed”.

“I told them as she did not die of natural causes, I will have to call the police. They said they preferred that I did not involve the police.”

Gumbu said the stepfather did most of the talking, while the mother cried.

Also read: Mom, stepdad deny causing 3-year-old Poppie's death

The stepfather then changed his story and said Poppie was watching television when she suddenly complained of being tired, Gumbu testified.

She collapsed and they tried to wake the child up by pouring water over her.

Koekemoer claimed Poppe sustained all the bruises in the bakkie they were travelling in to the hospital as they drove at high speed.

Poppie van der Merwe died after allegedly being abused by her mother and stepfather.

The mother appeared emotional and cried, while the stepfather “looked more relaxed”, Gumbu said.

Defence counsel for the stepfather said Koekemoer did not know what happened to the child, as he was outside working in the garden, when the mother called him after the child had collapsed.

Paramedic Morris de Beer testified that he took the child from the father at the emergency unit. Poppie was at the time only clad in underwear. “The child appeared dead to me.

"She did not move.”

He tried his best to resuscitate her - in vain. “I saw bruise marks across her body and a hematoma on her head. I asked the father what happened.

"He said she sustained the bruising in the car, on the way to hospital.”

De Beer said in his opinion the child had been dead for a while before she arrived at the hospital.

He concluded rigor mortis had already set in as he had difficulty in opening her mouth.

He testified that the mother stood at the door of the hospital cubicle with a little boy at her side. “I asked the boy what had happened and he only responded that 'she would not eat'."

The parents have pleaded not guilty to four charges, including murder and assault with intent to do grievous bodily harm, alternatively child abuse.

One of the charges relate to a 5-year-old boy, who may not be identified.

It is claimed Poppie was hit and kicked to death in the stomach by her stepfather.

The court earlier heard that the parents were monitored when they arrived in Orania in May 2014 after a neighbour suspected the children were abused.

Social services in Orania monitored the situation and apparently sought help in nearby Hopetown. This help never came and the parents eventually moved to Brits in September last year.

Poppie died soon after.

Tanya Goosen, a teacher in Orania, said the little boy, who was in her class, arrived at school with bruises on his body. He said “his father kicked him and his sister”. He also said that his father had a “paplepel” (a long wooden spoon) with which he hit them.

The child claimed Koekemoer dragged him around by his feet.

Poppie’s biological father, Christo van der Merwe, who attended Tuesday’s hearing, told the media his daughter was let down by the authorities.

“If only one of them followed the right procedure, Poppie would still be alive today. My daughter was failed by the world and we want those responsible for her death, to be held accountable."

Pretoria News