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By Ilse de Lange


Judge ‘shocked’ at Poppie’s injuries

Mother and stepfather of dead toddler will learn fate today.

Evidence and photos of three-year-old Poppie van der Merwe’s injuries were “absolutely shocking”, the judge presiding in the trial of her parents said yesterday.

Judge Bert Bam made the remark during legal argument by prosecutor Salome Scheepers, who argued that the state had proved the guilt of Poppie’s mother, Louisa Koekemoer, 47, and stepfather, Kobus Koekemoer, 44, on charges of murder and assault with the intent to do grievous bodily harm beyond a reasonable doubt.

A pathologist testified that Poppie had died of massive brain bleeding caused by a serious blow or blows to the head that were probably inflicted with a blunt object, a fist or the child being thrown against a wall. She had new and old bruises on her body and a blunt force injury to her abdomen.

The couple denied assaulting Poppie and a five-year-old boy and blamed each other for inflicting the injuries that caused Poppie’s death.

Louisa’s mother, Helena Bothma, testified that her daughter was a gentle person who always tried to help others and would not have abused her children. She believed Louisa had kept quiet about the abuse because she was afraid of Koekemoer.

Bothma said she had complained to their church minister in Orania after seeing blue marks on the boy’s buttocks, but was told not to interfere in her daughter’s marriage. The town’s counsellor told her they were “working on the case”.

Bam said it concerned him that the people of Orania knew the children were being abused, but passed the problem from one person to another without doing anything concrete. He said it appeared from the evidence that Poppie had been assaulted for eight months without anyone doing anything and that the assaults became worse after the couple moved from Orania to Brits.

The judge made it clear that he did not believe the accused’s story that Poppie had “played dead”. He said the symptoms were reconcilable with a child losing consciousness after being assaulted.

Scheepers argued that both accused had assaulted Poppie and didn’t care what happened to her, but the defence argued the state had not proved that Koekemoer had foreseen Poppie’s death and at most proved that Louisa had been negligent.

Judgment will be delivered today.

– ilsedl@citizen.co.za

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