Parents of abused baby who suffered more than 30 fractures convicted of assault
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Pretoria - The parents of a baby who was only two months-old when she ended up in hospital for the first time with several broken ribs and five months-old when she ended up in hospital for a second time with more than 30 fractures, were convicted of assault with the intent to do grievous bodily harm.
The parents, both in their early 20’s may not be named in order to safeguard the identity of the little girl, who is now a year and a half old. She is living with a relative and doing well, the Gauteng High Court, Pretoria was told.
The parents were acquitted on a charge of attempted murder, after Judge Hennie de Vos on Tuesday said that he is not convinced that they wanted to cause her death.
But the judge said the circumstantial evidence, especially that from the various doctors who testified, is overwhelming that they had severely assaulted the then infant last year.
He also convicted the pair of child neglect, as Baby T, as she is known, was severely malnourished when she ended up in the Eugene Marais Hospital for the second time in July last year.
She was prematurely born on February 1 last year and was in hospital for the first time in April last year as she had breathing problems. An X-ray of the baby revealed that she had at least 18 rib fractures and that several of the ribs were broken in more than one place.
The rib fractures were of various ages - some were new and others were already healing.
Both parents were arrested by the police, but only the father appeared in court. He was given bail, with one of the conditions that he may not see the child.
But within a few days he and the child’s mother again lived together and hardly three months later, the baby was back in hospital as she could not breath.
While the doctors described her condition as bad during her first stint in hospital, they all agreed this time that she was on the brink of death.
Apart from being nearly starved, she had more than 30 fractures across her body, soft tissue injury to her neck and a bruise to her face. These included fractures to her legs and collar bone.
The 22-year-old mother and the child’s father, aged 24, insisted that they were not responsible for the injuries. They could not explain that if it was not them, who would have caused it.
The father was adamant that he never “spent a minute alone” with the child. He also denied that he and his then girlfriend, the mother of the child, lived together. According to him they only occasionally spent a few nights together. When they were there, he said, he was mostly at work.
But it became clear that this is a lie, as he eventually admitted that at least during the hard lockdown last year they had spent all that time together.
Judge De Vos said it is very strange that the parents, if they were as innocent as they had claimed, never questioned who then assaulted their child. Following their first arrest in April, they simply continued with life as if nothing had happened. Not even after the child ended up in hospital in a critical condition for the second time, did they question who was hurting their child.
“This is because they knew that both of them were assaulting the child,” the judge said.
He added that they insisted on going to a different hospital and seeing a different doctor on the second occasion, as they knew that they would have been in deep trouble if they returned.
While there is not direct evidence as to how the baby was assaulted, a family member testified how the mother squeezed the baby when she cried and forcefully swung her around. The judge also accepted the medical evidence that excessive force was used in breaking the baby’s ribs and other bones.
The matter was meanwhile postponed to December 6 for a pre-sentencing report.
The parents are out on R3 000 bail each.