THE POPPIE TRIAL Dr describes how little girl died
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.