Justice for Baby Daniel: Murderer gets life
Desperately sad scenes in court as judge says no jail term can match the loss of the three-year-old’s life
Three mothers cried uncontrollably in the South Gauteng High Court on Wednesday as Baby Daniel’s killer, who happened to be his mother’s boyfriend, was handed a life sentence on Wednesday for murder.
Broken bones, bruising, burn wounds to 60% of his body, head dunked first in buckets of water and being forced to eat his own faeces after he had soiled himself. These were some of the horrific ordeals the three-year-old boy had suffered not on only on the day he died but, according to the state, for weeks, if not months, before he died. One person whose grief could not be missed was Daniel’s mother, Maryke Cloete*, who was not grieving from the court gallery but stood side by side with her baby’s killer as the tears streamed down her face.
She was handed a 20-year sentence for two counts of child abuse relating to how she had turned a blind eye to the torture suffered by the little boy. Whether the 31-year-old Cloete’s tears were for her child or for the lengthy prison sentence that lay ahead for her, no one will know.
Two benches away from Cloete, her mother – who had clasped onto her father’s hand as Judge Collin Matshise delivered the sentence – also sobbed at the loss of not only her grandchild, Daniel, but now also for the life of her daughter who would spend many years incarcerated.
In front of her, pain, disbelief and sheer horror marked the face of Tim Naidoo’s* mother and relatives at the life sentence handed to the father of four.
Delivering his judgment, Matshise said Cloete had lost her son, to whom she was reportedly very close, but “the other victims are the elder brother, the uncles, aunt, his biological father and grandparents” who were robbed of seeing the young boy grow.
Despite sharing in their grief, Cloete’s family and Naidoo’s family did not interact during court proceedings, except for the few times when her parents showed irritation and pleaded with Naidoo’s family to hush as they made remarks about Cloete’s version of the toxic, abusive, drug and alcohol fuelled relationship that she had lived in with their son.
Cloete and Naidoo are reported to have since separated following Daniel’s death and ignored each other while they sat in the dock side by side, but the pair will also hold a bond that cannot be broken – two young children, now aged two and three years old. The toddlers are in a place of safety.
The court had heard of how at one point, during an altercation with Cloete, Naidoo had taken their then four-month-old daughter from her, placed her behind his parked, stationary car and threatened to release the handbrake.
Perhaps Daniel was somewhat the sacrificial lamb who saved his two younger siblings from a life similar to his.
While the two children would grow up without their biological mother and father, Matshise said they “would not be seriously affected” by their parents incarceration.
He said had Daniel been an adult, the trauma and terror that he had seen and experienced in his young life would not have simply been described as child abuse, but immense torture.
“The post mortem revealed that the injuries suffered by Daniel were far beyond what any person should suffer,” Matshise said. “There are no more serious crimes other than the crimes you have been found guilty of. You have taken the life of a defenceless child. No sentence can match his loss in life,” said the judge.
* Not their real names. Their real identities are being withheld to protect the identities of the surviving children.