Pretoria - Shocking details of alleged child abuse emerged in the Gauteng High Court, Pretoria, on Wednesday during the trial of the couple accused of last year’s murder of Poppie van der Merwe, 3.
Kobus and Louisa Koekemoer also face an additional charge of assault with intent to do grievous bodily harm, alternatively child abuse. This relates to both Poppie and a 5-year-old boy, who may not be identified.
Jaco Roux, who for a couple of months lived next door to the family in Orania, told the court that Koekemoer also often belittled the children by telling them they were dumb.
Poppie’s stepfather, in crude language, also once scolded the child for “soiling in her bed again”, and this was followed by the most fearsome crying from the child. The next day her leg was in plaster of Paris.
“One night I heard a thud against the wall, followed by Poppie crying hysterically. The next morning I saw her walking ‘cripple’ and holding her arm against her body. She had a huge bruise on her head,” he told Judge Bert Bam.
Roux said he asked the stepfather what happened, but in a rage he stormed to the car. The mother explained that she fell down stairs.
The next incident that had upset him was when he was speaking to Koekemoer, who was watering the garden in his yard.
The children were sitting on a nearby step when the father suddenly turned the hose on them and soaked them. “It was winter and the children cried bitterly and said they were cold,” he said.
Koekemoer shouted at the children saying they deserved it as they were making inappropriate advances towards each other.
“The next moment, the mother came out of the house and told them ‘you wanted to f*** each other’. I will never forget those words.”
Poppie was declared dead on October 25 last year when she arrived at a provincial hospital in Brits. The couple had moved from Orania to Brits a few weeks earlier.
The doctor who declared Poppie dead said she had multiple bruises across her body, from her head to her legs. Even her private parts were swollen and bruised.
Evidence that problems in the little girl’s life existed months before her death have emerged during the case, from the time the family lived in Orania.
Roux reported to social services in Orania that he suspected that the parents were abusing Poppie and the boy.
He told Judge Bam that in February last year, he moved into a house next to that of the Koekemoers, and although he initially did not notice anything odd from his neighbours, he saw that the children seemed to be quiet and withdrawn.
“I noticed that when their parents were there, the children were solemn. When they were not there, the little ones managed to smile a bit.”
Roux said he went to Orania’s social services the next day and reported his concerns to the woman who acted as a social worker there.
He also mentioned incidents when he heard Poppie waking up at night after she had harrowing nightmares. “She used to scream for about 20 minutes long.”
According to Roux, both children often wet their beds and on occasions even soiled their beds. He said he again went to social services to report the parents after he heard Poppie’s screaming after her stepfather had punished her for soiling her bed. “She screamed blue murder. It is simply something you cannot describe.”
He was surprised when one day, out of the blue, the family moved away from Orania without informing anyone. The State claimed that the parents fled from Orania as they were being investigated for allegedly abusing the children.
Roux, in concluding his evidence, said the alleged abuse was never reported to the police outside Orania, as anyone who sought help from outside the town faced being kicked out.
The court sat in camera for the remainder of on Wednesday as a now 16-year-old who used to look after the children was giving evidence against the couple. She was testifying from an adjacent room as she did not want to face the accused in court.
Judge Bam cleared the courtroom as the teenager indicated that she did not want the media to report on her evidence, nor did she want the other relatives in court to hear what she said. The court earlier heard that the blonde girl mostly took care of the children while the parents were at work. Roux earlier testified that the stepfather accused the girl of having sexual encounters with men while they were at work. Roux said Koekemoer told him that this was where the smaller children learnt their alleged wicked ways.