Justice at last for brutal murder and rape of 18-month-old Jeremiah Ruiters
Social workers, neighbours, his grandmother and even his mother failed to protect 18-month-old Jeremiah Ruiters from the monster who attacked his little body for weeks - biting, clawing and breaking his growing bones.
On Wednesday that man - his mother's boyfriend Ameerodien Peters - was finally convicted in the Western Cape high court for raping and murdering Jeremiah on June 24 2017.
For her neglect and failing to stop Peters from repeated attacks against her son, Abigail Ruiters was also convicted on one count of child neglect. Although judge Monde Samela was scathing regarding her neglect of her child, he exonerated Abigail of murder and two further counts of neglect and sexual abuse.
The brutality that Peters inflicted upon Jeremiah was described in technical detail by state pathologist Dr Marna du Plessis, whose evidence pointed to physical abuse sustained over weeks, including:
- 40 rib fractures, some of which were fresh and had been re-inflicted shortly before Jeremiah was murdered;
- lacerations to his mouth and a broken nose that was a few weeks old, which the pathologist found was intentionally inflicted by a direct blow to the face;
- bruised organs, including bleeding around the heart lining, kidneys, intestines and genitals;
- rape, before his spinal column in his lower back was broken - suggesting someone had placed him on his stomach and jumped onto his back;
- bite and scratch marks all over his body; and
- bleeding under his skin all over his head.
Ultimately it was a blunt-force trauma - as though he was picked up by his feet and dropped on his head - which killed him.
Peters, who had pleaded not guilty, seemed defiant and sighed a sigh of relief when he was found not guilty on two counts of child neglect. He sat clenching his fists, as though he was anticipating a verdict in his favour. When Samela pronounced him guilty of rape and murder, he shook his head in disappointment.
On his arm he sported a "26" prison gang tattoo, which he has received since his incarceration after his arrest in 2017.
Peters claimed in his testimony that he was a loving and caring father who would feed his three children every morning, pack their lunch and walk them to school.
But this was countered by his eight-year-old daughter, who testified - via a CCTV link and with special assistance - that he was "lazy" and would mostly sleep. She said he was physically abusive to Jeremiah and would bite his arms and legs. He also prevented her from attending school.
A social worker who testified in the case - who asked their name not to be made public - conceded to the court that she did not conduct her work properly when she was sent to investigate neglect at the Ruiters household. She admitted that she and her supervisor had been negligent in their work.
Abigail's mother Gail also testified about the filth and neglect in which the children, including Jeremiah's sisters, aged eight and three, were kept. She said she would often have to take care of the children while Peters slept.
Abigail conceded that she was "not a good mother" to Jeremiah.
"You allowed [Peters] to continuously abuse [Jeremiah]. You had a legal duty to protect him and you failed. You turned a blind eye and you were full of love [for Peters], which blinded your eyes," Samela told her.
She cried after Samela's pronouncement.