THE POPPIE TRIAL Dr de­scribes how lit­tle girl died

Diamond Fields Advertiser - - NEWS - ZELDA VENTER HIGH COURT RE­PORTER

A MAS­SIVE blow or sev­eral mas­sive blows to the head caused the death of three-year-old Poppie van der Merwe.

This is ac­cord­ing to lead­ing foren­sic pathol­o­gist Dr Gert Saay­man, who had com­piled his own re­port af­ter study­ing pic­tures taken of her body rid­dled with bruises, as well as study­ing the post-mortem re­port of the doc­tor who per­formed the au­topsy.

Saay­man said that it is dif­fi­cult to say ex­actly how long Poppie had been dead by the time her step­fa­ther Kobus Koeke­moer rushed her to hos­pi­tal, but in his es­ti­ma­tion she must have died at least an hour or two be­fore­hand.

With the type of brain in­jury she had suf­fered, she could have died within min­utes or a few hours, he said.

Saay­man was tes­ti­fy­ing in the trial of Koeke­moer and his wife Louisa, Poppie’s bi­o­log­i­cal mother. The pair are fac­ing a charge of mur­der and charges re­lat­ing to child abuse in the Gaut­eng High Court in Pre­to­ria.

They pleaded not guilty to all the charges.

Koeke­moer claimed that Poppie had suf­fered sev­eral of the bruises in the back of his bakkie while he was trav­el­ling at high speed to get her to the hos­pi­tal on the af­ter­noon of Oc­to­ber 25 last year.

Saay­man said this was doubt­ful, as many of the in­juries were on parts of her body which one would not as­so­ciate with bump­ing around in a ve­hi­cle.

He de­scribed her in­juries as be­ing caused by di­rect vi­o­lence.

He de­scribed the over­all pat­tern of her in­juries as “non-ac­ci­den­tal in­jury syn­drome” or the so-called bat­tered child syn­drome.

Saay­man said that while the bruises and in­juries recorded across her body would not have been fa­tal, the blow or blows to the head caused bleed­ing and sub­se­quent swelling to her brain, which was fa­tal.

Saay­man said that she most def­i­nitely suf­fered blunt force trauma Poppie van der Merwe

to her head, which could have been caused by hit­ting her head against a wall, hit­ting her with a fist or with a shoe.

He also de­scribed the so-called “six­penny bruises” which were vis­i­ble on var­i­ous parts of her body. These are com­monly caused by the fin­ger­tips of an adult while vi­o­lently shak­ing a small child.

Saay­man also said that it was clear that some of the in­juries were in­flicted over a pe­riod of time - up to a few days prior to her death.

“In my view it is un­likely that this tod­dler would have sur­vived the head in­jury which she sus­tained, un­less she had been taken for im­me­di­ate med­i­cal at­ten­tion.”

He ex­plained that a se­vere blow to the head is usu­ally fol­lowed by a brief loss of con­scious­ness, which is then fol­lowed by a brief re­cov­ery. But, there will be a level of re­duced alert­ness and drowsi­ness and the vic­tim then usu­ally de­te­ri­o­rated rapidly.

Saay­man was un­able to say how much force was ap­plied to Poppie’s head to have caused the bleed­ing of the brain. “But there must have been a lot of force,” he said.

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