Family member says ‘abused baby’ swung in air by mother, 22
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Pretoria - The mother accused of abusing and neglecting her baby when the child was only a few months old allegedly threw her in the air and violently rocked the crying infant from side to side in a bid to hush her up.
This is according to a family member of the 22-year-old mother, who, together with the child’s father, is facing an array of child abuse charges, as well as a charge of attempted murder.
Both the mother and the 24-year-old father earlier pleaded not guilty in the Gauteng High Court, Pretoria.
While some doctors last week testified that they could detect at least 18 fractures across the body of Baby T when she was admitted to hospital at the age of five months, it later emerged that she suffered about 33 injuries in all.
Doctors found 31 fractures and two soft tissue injuries – one in the neck and the other in the face.
When baby T, who was prematurely born on February 1 last year, was taken to hospital for the first time at the age of two months, X-rays showed that she had several broken ribs on both sides of her chest – some the result of recent injuries while others were already healing.
While the parents vehemently denied that they had inflicted the injuries to the child, the State’s case is that the child had been in their care during the time and that they had a duty to protect her. Thus the prosecution is expected to argue that whether they had inflicted the injuries or not, they were aware of the assaults and did not take any steps to protect the baby.
The last State witness called to the stand yesterday was a family member of the mother in whose care Baby T has been placed.
After the injuries came to light and they were reported to the police, the Children’s Court ordered her to take care of the little girl. One of the parents’ bail conditions is that they may not see the baby.
The woman testified that the baby was doing very well in her care. She now had four teeth and was a normal, happy baby.
While the baby was still in the care of her parents last year, the mother and baby slept over at the house of this witness on a few occasions.
She described the prematurely born baby as “difficult” at the time and said she often cried. The mother, she said, explained to her how to “calm” the baby when she cried, by holding her very tightly to the chest. “She also showed me how to swing her around, away from the chest, when she was difficult.”
The witness said she did not do this, as she did not think it was the right thing to do with such a tiny baby. Asked by the prosecution whether this swinging helped to calm the baby, the witnesses said “no”, it in fact caused the baby to gasp for air.
The witness told the court that on one such visit and when the baby cried again, the mother went to sit outside with the baby. “She (the mother) smoked some dagga and she told me that it calmed her (the baby), making her pain better.”
But the mother’s lawyer denied this and said the mother never smoked in front of the baby. According to the lawyer, the mother used to cradle the baby against her chest and gently rock her in a bid to stop the infant crying.
Various doctors, however, earlier testified that a great deal of force must have been used on the baby to cause all the fractures. It was explained that the bones of babies were flexible and very difficult to break.
The State, meanwhile, closed its case yesterday and the mother is expected to take the stand today.