Tears for little Jeremiah

2017-06-20 06:01
Heartbroken Gail Ruiters (left) consoled by her sister Oameez Lameem before the start of the night vigil.PHOTO: nomzamo Yuku

Heartbroken Gail Ruiters (left) consoled by her sister Oameez Lameem before the start of the night vigil.PHOTO: nomzamo Yuku

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It was a tearful evening on Thursday last week as more than 200 community members of Factreton gathered to mourn the death of an 18-month-old baby, who was allegedly murdered.

The flashing of candle light blown by the wind on the dark and freezing night exposed different expressions as some people were crying and praying hard while others still looked shocked during the night vigil held at the Ruiters family home in Salmander Plein.

Many thought of their last memories spent with Jeremiah Joshua who was declared dead upon arrival at Factreton clinic on Monday last week.

Speakers referred to him as an angel.

Jeremiah had reportedly suffered severe injuries to his head, neck and face. According to a police report he was unresponsive when his stepfather (26) brought him to the clinic.

The stepfather and Jeremiah’s mother were arrested and appeared in Cape Town Magistrate’s Court on Wednesday last week.

The mother (30) was charged under the Children’s Act while the man faces a charge of murder. They will appear in court again tomorrow for their bail application.

Jeremiah will be laid to rest on Saturday at the New Apostolic Church in Factreton.

Family members and friends, who say they are “emotionally disturbed”, say his death was unexpected.

They say the couple seemed to be having normal quarrels like any other couple and the stepfather had shown passion for Jeremiah.

“He would carry him on his chest, zip him inside his jacket and take him to the shops. He looked after him and two other children and everything looked fine.

“I still cannot believe what he did,” says Gail Ruiters, the boy’s grandmother. “However, he recently started neglecting the children and I would look after them when I came back from work. Last week my daughter told me she was going to leave him but she did not say why.”

An eight-year-old neighbour, Zea Rodeiques, who cried as she started describing her memories of Jeremiah, says she and her friend spent a lot of time with the boy but they were confused by a sudden change in his behaviour.

“He was always happy but now he was crying and scared when he saw his father. We did not know why.

“Now I think he was beating him and came out to pretend to care for him and smile at us. He must stay in jail for what he did. It hurts, I miss Jeremiah already,” says Zea.

His grandfather, a well-known pastor, Ronald Ruiters, says he had always feared for the safety of the three children because he suspected the stepfather had a substance abuse problem.

“It hurts me that my grandson died a painful death in the hands of a trusted man to my daughter. It is even worse that she has to pay for being a good mother. She was leaving them with him because she had to work for her children and he was not working. She was doing her best to provide for them on her own as their father wanted nothing to do with them.”

Ronald says he never trusted the stepfather but he could not interfere in his daughter’s personal life.

“I remember when this baby was found with a fracture on his arm, there was no explanation. We let that slip and it was a big mistake,” he recalls.

He says he was aware that the older children were not comfortable with the stepfather and had moved in to sleep in the same home as them every night.

Organisers of the three-hour vigil, the community policing forum, condemned the incident. Chairperson Mogamat Nordien said the community and the police would not tolerate incidents like these.

He advised people to speak out about abuse before it was too late.

Ward councillor Helen Jacobs said the council would support the family during this difficult time.

She said the community needed to stand together against all sorts of violence.

The pastor of Nazarene Church led the vigil. He called upon all church and traditional leaders to unite and do their part in bringing peace to communities.

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