Lesbian couple guilty of gruesome murder
Four-year-old Jandre Botha refused to call his mother's lesbian lover "daddy" - and paid with his life.
Jandre's father, Jan Botha, was in the Vereeniging regional court's public gallery on Wednesday when his former wife, Hanelie Botha, 31, and her partner, Engeline de Nysschen, 33, were found guilty of the gruesome murder of his son.
He sat in court holding the hands of his fiancée, Yolanda Deysel, and listened attentively to magistrate Rita Willemse, who, in her judgment, accepted evidence that among the reasons that led to Jandre's brutal ordeal was his refusal to call De Nysschen "daddy".
The court had heard evidence from Lydia Nkomo and her daughter Aletta Lesiba, who worked for the couple in their tuckshop, that De Nysschen had viciously assaulted Jandre while demanding that he must call her "daddy".
Both testified that while Jandre was assaulted, his mother failed to intervene or protect him. Evidence showed he had sustained horrific injuries, including a fractured skull and brain damage, as well as broken legs, collarbone, hands and pelvis.
The court accepted the evidence of Professor Mohammed Dada, a trauma expert, who said the boy's injuries were similar to those of a person who had fallen from a double-storey building.
Delivering judgment, Willemse acknowledged there was no substantial evidence linking Hanelie to the assaults, but said she was equally guilty of murder for failing in her legal duty to protect her child against abuse and violation.
The court found she had lied to Dr Elna Gibson, one of the medical doctors who treated Jandre, by saying the boy obtained his injuries after he had slipped in the bath.
The court ruled that she had lied to protect De Nysschen. The doctors who had examined Jandre dismissed the pair's version that he had slipped in the bath. They said excessive force was required to inflict the kind of fatal injuries sustained by Jandre.
Convicting the two, Willemse dismissed their version and said there was substantial medical evidence before her about the nature of the injuries suffered by Jandre.
"I accept the evidence of the medical personnel who are experts in their fields. There were substantial documents placed before me. Most of them have medical experience which spans over a period of 15 years.
"All of them have dismissed the version of the accused and were unanimous that the deceased's injuries were inflicted over a period of time.
"It is unthinkable that the mother of the child could not have known about these fatal injuries. The deceased also had broken legs, and his mother should have been aware of this."
The magistrate criticised Hanelie for failing to report Jandre's abuse at the hands of her lover to the social workers monitoring Jandre's progress, after she had gained custody of him during a lengthy court battle with her ex-husband. She also failed to report the abuse to her ex-husband.
The boy's father became aware of Jandre's abuse only on the day of his death, June 12, 2003. De Nysschen contacted him and said Jandre had fallen earlier in the day and had died.
Willemse criticised Hanelie's fitness to be a mother, saying her parents later approached her ex-husband and gave him financial help to fight for the custody of his child.
Rebuking Hanelie, Willemse said: "Hanelie was not helpless. She was well aware of Engeline's violent outburst.
"She could have called the child's father for help but she failed to do so. She did nothing to protect her own child."
The magistrate labelled Engeline a liar and a hopeless witness who had contradicted herself in testimony.
Hanelie and De Nysschen were further convicted of assault with intent to do grievous bodily harm and child neglect for failing to provide or seek treatment for Jandre's limb fractures.
The case was postponed until June 26 for a pre-sentencing report.