The Western Cape High Court has sentenced a 25-year-old father from Montagu to an effective 13 years’ imprisonment for murdering his baby daughter.
Eugene Plaatjies was earlier this year convicted of murder, child abuse and neglect, and assault with intent to do grievous bodily harm.
Acting judge Nolita Kose on Tuesday said the accused had shown no remorse, and had maintained throughout the trial that the injuries his daughters sustained were accidental, or that he was not the cause at all.
His daughter, three-month-old Anthonique, died at Red Cross Children’s Hospital, a day after she was admitted on June 13, 2014.
Kose said in her judgement that she found it “very difficult to accept the version of the accused” and had no doubt that he had “inflicted and consequently caused the death of the deceased”.
During the trial, the forensic pathologist who performed the autopsy testified that the infant had sustained multiple bruises, multiple fractures, severe closed head injuries, multiple skull fractures, a laceration of the liver, fractures of the ribs and a contusion of the lung. The baby had both fresh and old fractures and had been “chronically abused”.
The pathologist said the extensive fractures of the skull would have been caused by banging the baby’s head against the wall or kicking her in the head.
The judge dismissed Plaatjie’s version that the baby had fallen off the bed and hit a bench.
The mother of the baby, 30-year-old Louise Alkaster, pleaded guilty to child neglect and was sentenced to a five-year suspended sentence at the start of the trial.
During the trial, she testified about the abuse she suffered at the hands of Plaatjies.
In sentencing, Judge Kose said the accused had admitted during mitigation of sentence that he “wasn’t soft with her (the baby)”.
He had told the court he couldn’t believe he would never see his baby again and that it “still feels like a dream”.
But Kose said he had subjected the baby to “torture and pain and subjected her to trauma”. She said Plaatjies “deprived his own child of her right to life and protection”.
The baby’s family would have to face life without the baby they loved and cherished, she said.
“It is shocking to everyone that she was abused and murdered by her biological father.”
Kose said the postmortem report had indicated that “the deceased had both old and new injuries”.
The accused had said he was sorry that his baby had had to go through times of pain, but Kose said in her view this was not a sign of remorse.
She said that on June 12, 2013, when the baby had been in his care and the mother had returned home he didn’t tell her what had happened.
Alkaster then took the baby to hospital believing she was having seizures.
“It was only when the accused arrived at hospital that he told Louise that the baby fell from the bed.” Kose said evidence led during the trial showed this was highly unlikely.
“There is a clear indication that the accused refused to tell the truth.”
For count one, child abuse, he was sentenced to six years. For count two, murder, he received a 13-year-sentence. And for count 3, assault with intent to do grievous bodily harm which related to an attack on the mother of the child, he got one year. Counts one and three were ordered to run concurrently which means Plaatjies will serve an effective 13 years.
Kose also ordered that his name be added to the National Child Register and that he never be allowed to work with children.
Plaatjies had a blank expression throughout sentencing. A small group of his family members were at court to support him, but refused to comment to media.
– African News Agency (ANA)