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No justice yet for malnourished, abused baby girl who had more than 30 fractures across body

A file picture of the parents of a baby who suffered multiple fractures on trial in court. Picture: Zelda Venter

A file picture of the parents of a baby who suffered multiple fractures on trial in court. Picture: Zelda Venter

Published Jun 7, 2022


Pretoria - The former couple convicted more than eight months ago of assault with the intent to do grievous bodily harm as well as child neglect are still awaiting sentencing.

The sentence procedures of the mother, 24 and father, 26 were postponed on several occasions as the advocate representing the man fell ill.

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Yesterday the Gauteng High Court, Pretoria, once again postponed the matter, to July 19, because the advocate has since been diagnosed with cancer.

Judge Hennie de Vos urged the father to consider obtaining a new defence counsel to represent him in making submissions regarding the sentence the court is due to deliver.

The judge said told the victim’s father that it was in his interest and in that of the little victim to try to sort out his legal representation as soon as possible.

The child – now aged 3 – was taken from the care of her parents in June 2020 after she landed up in hospital for the second time at the age of four months with multiple bone and rib fractures. The child is now living with a relative.

“The child is getting older and I am also sure you want to get on with your life,” the judge told the father in urging him to decide on a way forward regarding his defence counsel.

Judge de Vos concluded in October last year that the parents had, on at least five occasions, severely assaulted their baby daughter.

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The prematurely born baby was admitted to hospital last year for the first time at the age of 2 months with 18 rib fractures (some ribs were broken in more than one place), and at the age of 5 months with at least 33 fractures. The parents said they had no idea how this happened.

But Judge de Vos said it was clear they had both assaulted the child and they were protecting each other. “It is a case of hear no evil, see no evil,” he said.

The parents may not be named to safeguard the identity of the little girl.

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The parents were acquitted on a charge of attempted murder after Judge de Vos said that he was not convinced they wanted to cause her death.

But the judge said the circumstantial evidence, especially that provided by the doctors who testified that they had severely assaulted the infant on at least five occasions, was overwhelming.

He also convicted the pair of child neglect.

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The child, known as Baby T, was severely malnourished when she was admitted to the Eugene Marais Hospital.

She was born prematurely on February 1, 2019, and was hospitalised for the first time in April that year with breathing problems. An X-ray revealed that she had at least 18 rib fractures.

Some of the fractures were new and others were already healing.

Both parents were arrested by the police, but only the father appeared in court. He was given bail, with one of the conditions being that he did not see the child.

But within a few days he and the child’s mother were living together again and hardly three months later, the baby was back in hospital as she could not breathe.

While the doctors described her condition as bad during her first stint in hospital, they all agreed this time around that she was on the brink of death.

Apart from being nearly starved, she had more than 30 fractures across her body, soft tissue injury to her neck and a bruise to her face.

Pretoria News