The biological father of murdered toddler Poppie van der Merwe yesterday burst into tears on hearing that the trial of his former wife and her husband would not be concluded.
Judge Bert Bam reluctantly postponed the trial of Poppie’s mother, Louisa Koekemoer, 47, and stepfather Kobus Koekemoer, 44, to May 24 after counsel for Louisa, Adrian Nell, told the court an expert witness who had compiled a pre-sentencing report was not willing to testify if her identity was not protected.
This meant he had to find a new expert.
The judge said he regarded the delay as unnecessary, but was faced with a checkmate situation and had to take the interests of the accused and the contribution an expert could make into account.
Prosecutor Salome Scheepers said the state was not willing to accept the report without cross-examining the witness about its content and her expertise – and could not agree to her anonymity because the law did not provide for expert witnesses to remain anonymous.
Nell argued it would be in the interest of justice to obtain an expert report, to put his client’s personal circumstances before court.
Poppie’s biological father, Christo van der Merwe, started crying even before the trial commenced, after Hilton Hofmeyr, 68, of Bronkhorstspruit handed him a note he had written to Poppie.
In the note, Hofmeyr expressed anger and sorrow about the three-year-old’s death, saying only the gallows would compensate for her murder.
He said he wished the welfare authorities and pastor who failed to help her could feel the cruelty and pain the little girl had to endure.
Dressed in a pink T-shirt to remember his daughter, the tearful father said: “If only [the accused] would stop lying. They must just stop with their lies.”
In December last year, the Koekemoers were convicted of the abuse and murder of Poppie and abuse of a five-year-old boy, despite each of them blaming the other for Poppie’s injuries.
Poppie had already died of severe head injuries, caused by blunt force trauma, by the time she was taken to hospital in October 2016. She had old and new injuries all over her body and her hair had been shorn off to the skin.
Bam said the doctor, social workers, teachers and church minister in Orania who knew about the abuse but did nothing, could arguably be regarded as accomplices to her death.
Also read: Judge shocked at Poppie’s injuries