Baby Daniel case ‘was sadistic torture’
Pre-sentencing procedures in the murder case of three-year-old paint a picture of horrific abuse
“Baffling” and “unclarifiable”.
That is how social worker Lizette Botes described the contrast in the description that Maryke Cloete*, 29, gave about her ex-boyfriend Tim Naidoo*, who killed her three-year-old son, during the trial and the pre-sentencing report.
The child has become known as Baby Daniel.
Cloete previously described Naidoo as a “good father” who never hurt her or his own children.
But on Tuesday, Botes read out her report, which painted a picture of Naidoo as an abuser who even allegedly forced Daniel to eat his own faeces.
State prosecutor Steven Rubin asked Botes why Cloete might have changed her testimony, to which she replied: “She could have felt that if this information had been known, the judgment might have gone another way.”
Botes also said that calling what happened to Daniel as abuse would be “sanitising” what happened, because it was “sadistic torture”.
Cloete was found guilty in December on two counts of child neglect in connection with the death of Daniel. Naidoo was convicted of murder.
Paramedics found the child’s body at their home in Naturena, Johannesburg, in June 2016. He had burn wounds on 60% of his body after he had been submerged in boiling bath water. He also had head and chest injuries, and bruising on his arms.
Cloete told Botes that the night before the baby was killed, she and Naidoo argued and he pushed her.
Cloete said Daniel had looked “strange” and his eyes were “deurmekaar” (dazed). When she asked Naidoo what had happened, he replied: “I fucked him up for good.”
The next day, Daniel’s lips were blue. Cloete said she tried to do CPR but he was unresponsive. Paramedics confirmed he was brain dead.
Naidoo told social development department probation officer Yolanda Mahkinca, who testified on Tuesday, that he ran a bath for the children. He went to the bathroom with Daniel and poured hot water into the bath. He then walked with Daniel’s brother to their room to fetch their pyjamas.
He then heard Daniel screaming, rushed back and found Daniel in the bathtub. He claims he took Daniel out of the water and put burn ointment on him. He claims that Daniel said he felt no pain.
Naidoo told Cloete what happened when she arrived home.
During the night, Naidoo saw Daniel’s head was hanging off the side of the couch and was not responding. That is when they performed CPR and saw the bruises on his body.
Botes believes there has not been an “accurate account of Baby Daniel’s death”.
Cloete claimed that two months before Daniel’s death, her eldest son told her that Naidoo had broken Daniel’s leg. When they took him to hospital, they conspired to lie and told the hospital that Daniel had fallen out of a tree, despite there being no defensive injuries to show he had tried to break his fall.
Cloete also told Botes that Naidoo at times became enraged because Daniel was not fully potty trained.
In another incident, Naidoo allegedly placed their daughter behind the wheel of a car and threatened to release the handbrake.
Cloete said she sometimes hid her food to give her children bigger portions, but Naidoo would force her to eat it when he found out.
Botes told the court that the mother felt remorse, regret and subsequently gained insight into her role.
But when Rubin asked Botes if Mother Nature automatically kicks in when their children are threatened, Botes said “not always”.
Botes told the court that studies conducted by UCT’s Children’s Institute found child deaths were “highly” correlated with domestic abuse where children were used as shield or part of the domestic violence.
Botes told the court that Cloete’s parents had divorced when she was very young. Her parents often fought, and neglected her and her siblings. She said she was sexually abused. This abuse led to her becoming headstrong, making “poor relationship choices” and allowing an “enabling environment” for Naidoo to abuse the children, including Daniel.
Judge Collin Matshitse told Botes after her testimony that it was impartial and showed she was not “for any person, you are for the court”.
The pre-sentencing proceedings continue on Wednesday.
* Not their real names. Their real identities are being withheld to protect the identities of the surviving children.