A clip taken by Citizen journalist Virginia Keppler on Thursday morning outside the High Court in Pretoria captures the anger around the murder of Poppie van der Merwe.
In the clip, Hilton Hofmeyr, 68, thanks Kobus Koekemoer’s advocate for losing his case in the murder trial.
Everyone calls Hofmeyr ‘Oom’ even though he’s not actually related to the family. He, however, took a keen interest in the case and often supported Pippie’s family emotionally. He drove from Bronkhorstspruit to attend court proceedings from the start and often cried himself.
Last month, Poppie’s biological father, Christo van der Merwe, started crying even before the trial commenced, after Hofmeyr handed him a note he had written to Poppie.
In the note, Hofmeyr expressed anger and sorrow about the three-year-old’s death, saying only the gallows would compensate for her murder.
He said he wished the welfare authorities and pastor who failed to help her could feel the cruelty and pain the little girl had to endure.
In the clip below, Hofmeyr, with a smile, thanks the Koekemoers’ advocate for losing the case. He tells him: “Jy’t jou gat gesien” (You saw your arse).
The lawyer responds by trying to keep his composure and laughing it off with the comment: “Ek is bly, hoor.” (I’m happy, you hear.)
Judge Bert Bam on Thursday sentenced Louisa Koekemoer, 47, and her husband, Kobus Koekemoer, 44, to life imprisonment for the murder of Poppie when she was three.
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.
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.
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 trial, 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 their heads facing down, the same way they sat while the court was in session.