A 35-year-old Mamelodi man who severely assaulted his girlfriend’s three-year-old son and then left the dying child alone for hours was yesterday sentenced to 10 years’ effective imprisonment.
Sentencing William Tjiane for the August 2010 death of his girlfriend Elizabeth Phahle’s son, Tebetso, Judge Neil Tuchten said in the High Court in Pretoria he accepted that Tjiane was not a wicked man, but “a good man who did a very bad thing”.
The judge found Tjiane had probably assaulted the little boy in a fit of anger because the child had soiled himself. Tjiane was convicted of culpable homicide as there was no evidence that he had the intention to kill Tebetso.
The boy died of head injuries and had cuts inside his lips, purple buttocks and print abrasions – corresponding with Tjiane’s shoe print – on his flank and thigh.
Tuchten found that Tjiane had left the seriously injured boy alone without getting medical help because he wanted to evade responsibility for what he did.
He said Tjiane was not the first parent to feel such annoyance, but to give way to his rage so harshly must warrant severe punishment.
Tebetso’s mother had left him in Tjiane’s care while she went to seek employment. Tuchten said Tjiane should have been a father figure to Tebetso and a man he could trust.
The anguish of the little boy when this very man severely assaulted him could hardly be imagined.
Tebetso’s mother said in a statement she has still not recovered from her son’s death and found it difficult to cope with life.
Tuchten said Phahle had left her son in Tjiane’s care because she trusted him. When she found her child near death, she did everything she could to get him help. She bore no blame.
The judge said Tjiane’s conduct was cruel and cowardly.
It counted against Tjiane that he showed not the slightest sign of remorse and never expressed a word of comfort to the woman with whom he shared a life and whom he had deprived of one of the great joys of her difficult life, her son.