The high court has thrown the book at a Western Cape couple for child murder, abuse and neglect.
Taswell Louw will serve 18 years behind bars for the murder of three-year-old Jeremiah Speak. His wife Renzia will serve a five-year jail term for child abuse and neglect.
Renzia was Jeremiah’s mother and Louw his stepfather. The couple were sentenced in the high court in Cape Town on Tuesday.
The court slapped Louw with a 12-year jail sentence for abusing Jeremiah and his eight-year-old brother. He was also sentenced to an additional six years’s imprisonment for child neglect.
Eric Ntabazalila, spokesperson for the prosecution in the Western Cape, said the sentences will run concurrently.
“The court declared Louw as unsuitable to work with children and ordered that his name be entered into the national child protection register. It also declared him unfit to possess a firearm,” he said.
Renzia was also charged with Jeremiah’s murder, child abuse and two counts of child neglect.
“The state could not prove the charge of murder through common purpose against her,” said Ntabazalila.
“However, the prosecutor, advocate Liezel Scholtzel, proved beyond reasonable doubt that Renzia compromised her children and lied about the gruesome injuries Germia (as Jeremiah was fondly known) suffered at the hands of her husband.
“The court sentenced her to eight years’ imprisonment for child abuse of Germia, wholly suspended for five years on condition she is not convicted for a similar charge. She was sentenced to five years’ imprisonment for the two counts of child neglect.
“The court ordered that her name be entered into the national child protection register. It further ordered that the national commissioner of the department of correctional services must ensure that a social worker from the department of social development visits Renzia’s remaining children at least once a month and report whether they need care and protection.”
Vulnerability of the poor increasing human trafficking risk: Salvation Army
The Salvation Army’s helpline is receiving up to a dozen calls every week, 80% of which are related to requests for help in cases of human
Ntabazalila said the two boys’ abuse and neglect started after December 2016 when the “besotted Renzia was swept off her feet by the paroled house robber, Taswell”.
“Renzia was disappointed by her previous boyfriend, the father of Germia and [his brother], who confessed to having a roving eye,’ said Ntabazalila.
“Taswell convinced everyone who cared to listen that he had mended his ways and he preached the gospel at the local clinic. Every evening he and Renzia attended church.
“They soon got married, although many in the community were against the marriage. Her ex-boyfriend warned her against marrying Taswell as he knew him as a gang member.
“Taswell started to beat up his wife. He was unemployed and responsibilities included preparing [the eight-year-old boy] for school and looking after Germia during the day. On many occasions the children were neglected.
“At times they would be locked in the dark Wendy houses while their parents went to church in the evenings. [The eight-year-old] was once found wandering the streets alone at night. He was also locked outside and his mother never bothered to look for him that evening and the next morning.”
The abuse continued. “On Jan. 25, 2017, Taswell threw a cup of boiling water on Germia’s face and made him sit in cold water. Renzia took him to Elsies River community health centre but lied about the cause of the injuries,” said Ntabazalila.
“At the time, Germia was being potty trained and Taswell became very angry when he soiled his nappy.
“On February 10 2017, Renzia noticed that Germia was vomiting and had become lethargic and feverish. She gave him Panado syrup. She did not take him to the hospital despite [the fact] that he continued to vomit several times.
“She took him to hospital after two days and only when he complained that his stomach was aching. He was transferred to Tygerberg Academic Hospital where doctors found that he suffered from dehydration and severe septic shock, and he had a cardiac arrest shortly after he was admitted.
“He later became wheelchair bound, had hypoxic-ischemic brain injury resulting in severe physical and mental disability, including cerebral palsy, cortical blindness and right optic nerve atrophy. He had to undergo various invasive surgeries. He passed away a year after being admitted in hospital.”
Scholtzel relied on the probation officers’ reports to bolster the state’s case against Louw. The prosecutor said the stepfather did not show remorse and did not admit any wrongdoing.
“There are no substantial and compelling factors with regard to the charge of murder that Taswell was convicted of,” Scholtzel argued.
“The aggravating factors, on the contrary, are significant and severe, and it is respectfully submitted that life imprisonment would be the only appropriate sentence.”
The prosecutor said Renzia’s actions played a significant role in Jeremiah’s torment.
“She showed no remorse as a mother who caused her child suffering. Throughout the trial, and seemingly during her children’s suffering, she was cold, callous unemotional and played the victim card without blinking,” said Scholtzel.
“She stood completely apathetic to her children’s needs, seamlessly and without any hesitation shifted blame and responsibilities for her children to Taswell.
“The fact that she was facing charges of murder and child abuse, offences for which direct imprisonment is prescribed, but proceeded to fall pregnant three times while on bail and standing trial, either proves her absolute inability to take responsibility as a mother, or it points to malice as an effort to avoid imprisonment. Either way, her six children are the ones suffering as a result of her actions.”