Daycare owner arrested: baby's 2008 death revisited

2010-11-03 00:00

“THE painful wounds of the time my baby died have been opened up again.”

These were the words of Dennis Steyn of White River, the father of baby Lené who died at the Baby Haven daycare centre in White River on April 2, 2008.

Lené died at the age of four months.

According to the post-mortem it was a cot death.

Baby Haven in Van Riebeeck Street was plunged into controversy two days ago when the owner, Christina Bruins (41), was arrested on charges of alleged child abuse.

Beeld newspaper reported yesterday that children at the daycare centre were allegedly being ill-treated by, among other things, being wrapped up very tightly in blankets.

In one case a nappy was apparently bound around a baby’s head because the baby was crying.

When Bruins, the mother of three minor children, appeared in court, the state decided that the judicial inquiry into Lené’s death should be re-opened.

Steyn related yesterday how he and his wife Adèle dropped Lené off at Baby Haven that morning.

“At some point someone at the centre apparently noticed that Lené wasn’t breathing.

“They phoned a doctor who practises nearby.

“An ambulance rushed Lené to Medi-Clinic in Nelspruit, but she was declared dead on arrival.”

The police confirmed that during the post-mortem, moisture was found in Lené’s lungs.

Her death was then declared to be a cot death.

At least four other parents said yesterday they were also going to make statements to the police.

“I removed my son of 18 months from Baby Haven earlier that year after I noticed what were clearly hand marks on his buttocks,” one mother said.

“It was obvious that someone had hit him with an open hand.”

She discussed the case with Bruins, who apparently blamed one of the staff members.

Another mother took her two-year-old baby girl out of the daycare centre after the child started displaying changes in behaviour.

“No, Mommy, no!’, my child shouted to me once when she saw a porridge spoon,” said the mother.

“She then told me that at the centre they were hit on their feet with a porridge spoon.”

The woman said that when she arrived at the centre unexpectedly one day, she heard someone screaming at her child for wetting her nappy. She decided to remove her child from Baby Haven soon afterwards. Bruins was released on bail of R3 000 and will re-appear in court on November 12. Anyone with information about Baby Haven should phone Captain M.H. Vilikazi, commander of the family, child and sexual abuse unit in Nelspruit at  013 759 1229.

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