Murder-accused parents deny guilt
Johannesburg - A couple denied in the North Gauteng High Court in Pretoria on Wednesday that they had abused their two-month-old baby son so severely that he died of his injuries.
Marissa Rudman and her boyfriend Nolan Schoeman both pleaded not guilty to a charge of murder and two of child abuse.
The couple was arrested for murder after their 2-month-old son Wade died of head injuries at the Steve Biko Hospital in Pretoria in April 2009.
The state alleges that they abused him from birth and also abused another child, who may not be identified, over a period of three years.
Rudman allegedly discharged the baby from the Pretoria West Hospital and refused him further medical treatment after he was admitted with pneumonia in March 2009.
He was admitted to the Steve Biko Hospital a week later, and died of head injuries.
The baby also had a broken arm, a rib fracture, extensive soft tissue injuries and multiple brain haemorrhages.
Rudman said in a statement that she at no stage abused either of the children and never did anything that could have caused Wade’s death.
She claimed she had not been aware that Schoeman was abusing the children and immediately took the baby to hospital when she became aware that Schoeman had abused him.
Schoeman also denied assaulting the baby boy or the other child.
He said in his plea explanation he had loved Wade, who was "the light of his life", and had not ill-treated the child nor been aware of anyone else ill-treating him.
However, Schoeman admitted that he had failed in his responsibility to see to it that the child was not abused because of his drug-taking lifestyle.
If an assault had taken place, it had happened behind his back and neither Rudman nor anyone else had informed him about it, he said.
Schoeman still wanted to know who had ill-treated his child.
A family member of the other child - who is now nine years old and living with his father - testified that Rudman and Schoeman had more bad than good times in their relationship.
The witness may not be named to protect the identity of the child.
He said the couple often fought and there was a lot of verbal and physical abuse.
He had once seen that Schoeman with a ripped shirt and blood on his face and he saw Rudman with black eyes more than once.
He said the child had become withdrawn and looked "pretty scared" all the time, but he had not seen injuries on the boy.
On one occasion, he saw Schoeman "irritating" the boy by constantly throwing a ball at him, and humiliating him in front of other children by pulling down his pants.
Schoeman had also shoved a plant into the young boy’s mouth, causing him to vomit.
The witness said Rudman had asked Schoeman to stop, but he had ignored her.
He said the couple had often asked him for financial and other help and that Rudman had phoned him in April and asked him to fetch the other child, as Wade was in hospital.
Warrant Officer Frederick Schoeman testified that he was called to the Steve Biko Hospital on 9 April 2009, after doctors opened a child abuse case.
Shortly after his arrival, he was told that the child had died and he found Schoeman and Rudman still at the hospital.
After telling them that their baby had died, he warned them of their rights and arrested them on a charge of murder.
Schoeman said the couple fell to their knees when he told them their baby had died. Rudman started to cry.
They whispered something to each other, but he could not hear what they were saying.
The trial continues.