‘Frustrated’ dad admits to beating his baby to death

2018-02-09 16:32


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Cape Town - A four-month-old baby was punched and slapped until he lost consciousness and died – because his crying and "fussiness" had frustrated his dad.

Christo Hartman, 25, on Friday pleaded guilty to a murder charge in the Western Cape High Court, admitting to killing his infant son in his Robertson home on February 4, 2017.

The farmworker in his plea explanation, read by his attorney JC Byleveld, said he had collected his son that morning from the baby's mother, Melissa Filander, to spend time with him at his home.

He had fed porridge to the infant, "but the baby kept on crying and also soiled himself".

"I cleaned the baby and attempted to feed the baby some more of the food, but the baby kept on being fussy," he stated.

Hartman said his frustration had been exacerbated because Filander’s father had not acknowledged him when he collected his son and "acted as if he disapproved of the baby going along with [him]".

"Because of my frustration, I assaulted the baby by slapping him in the face and on the neck numerous times, and hitting him hard once against the head with my fist. When I hit him against the head with the fist, I held his head at the back with my other hand.

"I also hit and slapped him more than once on the chest/abdomen and lower back, and scratched him with my nails on his lower back in the process."

'I wrapped the baby’s body in a sheet'

When little Christiano lost consciousness and Hartman could not feel a pulse, he held his son under a running shower in an attempt to revive him, he said.

He panicked and "caused more bruises to his arms and left by the way [he] handled him".

The baby never regained consciousness.

"I wrapped the baby’s body in a sheet and placed him in a crate in my room. I went to call my aunt and uncle… and told them that the baby had died, but they didn’t believe me."

He contacted another aunt, who sent her daughter. She phoned the police and ambulance.

Hartman was arrested on the same day.

"I did not have the direct intention to cause the baby’s death, but admit that I foresaw that I may cause his death by assaulting him in the way as described. I reconciled myself with the possibility and proceeded with my actions. I accordingly admit to having formed intention in the format of dolus eventualis."

'I feel very sorry for him'

During sentencing proceedings, the infant’s mother said she had forgiven Hartman, and did not hate him.

"I feel very sorry for him… I believe God will protect him and I will pray for him," she read from a letter she had written.

"Jerome [Hartman’s second name] loved the baby. He was with us every day."

Hartman and Filander lived on the same farm, only a few houses apart.

Hartman also took the stand, saying he was "very sorry" for what he had done.

"All I am asking for is a second chance," he told Judge Robert Henney.

Prosecutor Ntsoaki Mabilietse said the State was requesting life imprisonment, while Byleveld asked that the court consider a 25-year sentence, as his client had intended to plead guilty since his arrest.

Sentencing is expected to take place on Thursday.

Read more on:    cape town  |  crime

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