Judge Bert Bam on Thursday morning sentenced Louisa Koekemoer, 47, and her husband, Kobus Koekemoer, 44, to life imprisonment for the murder of Poppie van der Merwe.
He also sentenced the two accused, respectively, to 10 years’ imprisonment on a charge of child abuse on Poppie and another boy.
Poppie’s grandmother, Carla van der Merwe, burst out in tears of joy, another family member briefly clapped her hands, and another waved her fist in the air.
Van der Merwe said she was happy they were going to jail for life, but it still did not justify Poppie’s death.
“I feel relieved, maybe I will come to rest now. I am happy with the sentence, it does not bring Poppy back, but we are happy,” Van der Merwe said.
Bam said the abuse of children was very serious, and more so if the children were of a tender age. “It has become a common phenomenon that people kill each other and children. Child abuse cannot be tolerated and condoned in any society, and in my view, perpetrators of this must be removed from society for a very long time.
“But despite the severe sentence by the court, it seems abuse [cases] are on the increase,” Bam said.
He said he was not convinced at this point in time that Louisa Koekemoer could be easily rehabilitated at the age of 47.
Bam said many questions remained unanswered. “How can a mother and father do this to a child?”
Little Poppie died of severe head injuries caused by blunt force trauma by the time she was rushed to hospital. She had old and new injuries all over her little body, and her hair had been shorn off to the skin.
According to evidence presented in court during the trail, the little girl had to walk around with a fractured leg for two days before it was put in a cast, and was even then not given pain medication because her mother claimed she could not afford it.
The two accused left the court to start their sentence, walking with theirs heads facing down, the same way they sat while the court was in session.
Poppie’s Grandmother, Carla van der Merwe, spoke to The Randfontein Herald following the sentencing. Hear her heart-rending message here.