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The toddler allegedly killed by his abusive mother and cohabiting boyfriend was referred to a social worker three months before his death. 

The high court in Johannesburg heard yesterday how Dylan* was admitted at Rahima Moosa Mother and Child Hospital on March 31, 2016. Brought by his mother Mary’s* then boyfriend, Franklin*, as an emergency case, he had sustained fractures. 

At the time, Franklin told doctors that Dylan had fallen from a tree. Dr Noreen Yachod, who attended to the child at Rahima Moosa, told the court she and another doctor referred Dylan to a social worker because his injuries were suspicious. The three-year-old died in June 2016 after allegedly being submerged in boiling water. He also sustained injuries such as broken bones and bruises. 

“In this patient, we had a high index of suspicion of non-accidental injuries,” said Yachod, explaining what prompted the decision to send Dylan to a social worker. She said the number of injuries that the child sustained previously and the elbow fracture that was treated at a different hospital, Chris Hani Baragwanath, had raised suspicion. “He had a number of injuries of varying ages,” said Yachod. 

READ: Toddler died after being placed in boiling water

“He had bruising under both his eyes. He had bruising under his right nipple, under his ribcage and an old scar over his left elbow.” Equally suspicious, Yachod said, was the fact that “he didn’t have abrasions on the hands, which would show he tried to protect himself from the fall (prior to being brought to Rahima Moosa)”. Doctors also found the behaviour of both Dylan and Franklin irregular, said Yachod. 

She said the mother’s boyfriend was unusually attentive to Dylan. “He spoke to him quite a lot. “In my experience, it was very different from what I would expect. It was overly attentive.” She said parents usually first turned their attention to doctors and then tried to calm the child down. However, Dylan, hurt allegedly by falling from a tree, wasn’t crying, Yachod said.

 “He was very calm, very docile. He wasn’t screaming, wasn’t crying excessively. He was very withdrawn.” Lawyers for both accused told the court that the social worker didn’t take the matter any further after conducting an investigation. Dr Candice Hansmeyer, a forensic pathologist who examined the child’s body, testified again yesterday. She maintained that the injuries Dylan suffered were indicative of abuse. 

Hansmeyer said she saw burns, abrasions and bruises, including on the forehead and arms, and signs of clinical dehydration. “The pattern of these injuries was highly suggestive of something irregular. It was a constellation of these injuries that made me suspicious, and I sent the child for a skeletal survey,” said Hansmeyer. 

The police’s Constable Peter Munyadziwa revealed to the court that Franklin had told him and a colleague that the boy had fallen into hot water in the bathroom the previous night. Both Mary and Franklin are facing charges of murder and abuse, as well as neglect. The trial continues. 

* Not their real names