‘She turned a blind eye’ - Baby Daniel’s mom convicted of neglect, boyfriend of murder
The mother of a toddler who was abused by her boyfriend caused her child's death by keeping quiet about the abuse, the South Gauteng High Court has found.
"Her silence caused the death of her son," acting judge Collin Matshitse said on Thursday as he convicted the boy's mother and her boyfriend.
The couple was accused of beating the three-year-old and burning him with boiling water, ultimately leading to the boy's death. They are not being named to protect the identity of the woman’s other children.
The child had become known as "Baby Daniel" in the media, and was referred to as "Baby R" in Matshitse’s judgment.
Matshitse found the boy's mother guilty on two counts of child neglect, while her boyfriend – who is not the child’s father - was found guilty of child abuse, child neglect and murder. Matshitse said the state had proved its case beyond reasonable doubt.
The court found that the mother had caused the toddler's death by keeping quiet despite knowing her boyfriend was abusing the child.
"Accused 1 [the mother] was constantly living in fear of Accused 2 [the boyfriend]. There is a strong possibility that she knew what Accused 2 did to the child and her being afraid of losing her other children, became party to the abuse," the court found.
"Baby R was abused during his lifetime. R was constantly being assaulted and it's Accused 2 [the boyfriend] who inflicted those injuries. Accused 1 [the mother] was aware of the abuse. She turned a blind eye. She should have foreseen what was happening," Matshitse said.
He said the mother of the boy neglected to take proper care of him.
Matshitse rejected the mother's version that the boyfriend must have assaulted and burnt the child with boiling water when he went outside to relieve himself.
"The court rejects the version that R fell into the bath and hit his head."
After convicting the pair, Matshitse ordered that they both be kept in custody while counsel for the mother prepared to apply for her bail to be extended on Friday.
Sentencing is expected on January 21.
It was the state's case that the pair assaulted the three-year-old with a blunt object and then burnt him with hot water.
According to the indictment, during the early hours of June 25‚ the boy was found in his bed having already died.
"The deceased died of blunt force injuries of the head and chest with 60% body surface area partial to full thickness burns‚" the indictment read.
Ngaa Murombedzi from Women and Men against Child Abuse said they welcomed the judgment.
"We understand that it was difficult for the judge to convict the mother on a murder charge. But we are happy with her conviction.
Murombedzi urged parents who live in fear for their lives as a result of abuse from their spouses to report the abuse to authorities.
"Failing to protect your child can lead to neglect and your silence can lead to the death or murder of your child," she said.