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Poppie’s father emotional after postponement

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the next report should be delivered to the mother’s defence team a week before the court was due to sit to avoid a similar postponement

EMOTIONAL: Poppies biological father, Christo Van der Merwe, with his parents, Carla and Johan van der Merwe leave the Gauteng High Court, Pretoria after the postponement of pre-sentencing proceedings. Picture: Thobile Mathonsi / African News Agency (ANA)

POPPIE’S biological father, Christo van der Merwe, wept bitterly as pre-sentencing proceedings in the child’s murder case were postponed yesterday with the family expressing their desire to put the matter behind them.

Van der Merwe was at the Gauteng High Court, Pretoria, where the girl’s mother and stepfather, Louisa and Kobus Koekemoer appeared after being found guilty for abusing and killing the three-year-old in 2016.

They are also accused of abusing her older, five-year-old brother, who cannot be named.

The Van der Merwe family and members of the Go Purple Foundation said they were hurt and disappointed that Louisa’s defence refused to accept a pre-sentencing report in court yesterday morning.

As a result, the compiler will need to come to court to testify in front of Judge Bert Bam for proceedings to go ahead. However, the compiler refused to testify as she wished to remain anonymous.

A reluctant Judge Bert Bam had no choice but to concede and postpone the pre-sentencing proceedings to May 24 for another report to be compiled.

He said the next report should be delivered to the mother’s defence team a week before the court was due to sit to avoid a similar postponement.

Speaking after yesterday’s postponement, an emotional, weeping Christo said: “I want justice for my baby girl and I want this matter to come to an end. I do not want to continue coming here with my parents just for postponements. This is hard for us as a family to deal with.”

An elderly family friend, Hylton Hofmeyr, who travelled from Bronkhorstspruit in solidarity with Van der Merwe, said he was touched by what had happened to Poppie.

Van der Merwe and Hofmeyr wept together when Van der Merwe read a letter Hofmeyr wrote to Poppie’s family, in which he stated that he was heartbroken by what the two ‘agents of Satan’ had done to a helpless girl.

Poppie died in 2016 at a provincial hospital in Brits shortly after her parents relocated from Orania, when they were being investigated for child abuse.

Poppie’s grandmother, Carla van der Merwe, said the family wanted the trial to be wrapped up because each time they came to court, old wounds were reopened.

Members of the child abuse organisation Go Purple Foundation were also in court yesterday and founder Annari du Plessis stated for the organisation that justice would be done when all the role players were sent to prison.

The foundation wanted to take legal action against all those who did not report the abuse to the police even when they knew the child was being abused.

“A lot of people saw that Poppie was being abused when she repeatedly had bruises on her face and body but they did not report the child abuse to the police. Some of these people testified in court but did nothing to help this child,” said Du Plessis.

Last year, forensic pathologist Dr Gert Saayman, who studied the post-mortem report of the doctor who did the autopsy, told the court that Poppie had died from severe abuse.

He said Poppie had severe brain injuries, and it was possible she could have been dead for two hours before her stepfather rushed her to hospital in the back of his bakkie.

Saayman also challenged Koekemoer’s argument that Poppie had sustained several of her injuries in the back of the bakkie as it travelled at high speed.

He said they could not have been caused by being thrown around in a moving car, submitting that the injuries were caused by direct violence.