Pretoria – The mother of a little 3-year-old daughter who was so severely tortured by her parents over a long time and who eventually died when her mother gave her a blow to the head, was sentenced on Monday to life imprisonment for murder.
Welmarie Smith, 39, was also sentenced to an additional 25-year imprisonment by the Gauteng High Court, Pretoria, for assault with the intent to do grievous bodily harm. Her former husband, Willem Smith, 40, Nicole’s biological father, was convicted of assaulting the child and he too, received a 25-year jail sentence for this.
The father, a boilermaker, was not at their then Springs flat on the day Nicole died. Judge Bert Bam found that while he too assaulted Nicole over a period of time, he had nothing to do with the final death blow to the child’s forehead.
A pathologist told the court the child, who weighed 12 kg when she died, was emaciated and had 18 different wounds and bruises to her body.
This included an array of cigarette burns across her body. She also had a fractured leg which she had suffered sometime before her death and for which she was never treated.
Welmarie cried bitterly after she received the news that she will remain in jail for a very long time.
Neither her or her husband from whom she is now divorced, admitted to the end that they had assaulted the child.
Judge Bam said it was one of the worst cases of child abuse he had ever seen. He said this was in fact more than assault and abuse.
“They in fact tortured her over a lengthy period,” he said. The judge further remarked that this was “purely evil” behaviour by the parents.
“It is incomprehensible how parents can do this to their own flesh and blood. It is an evil deed. There is no doubt that this small, defenceless child suffered severely. This case is one of the worst examples of torture and abuse of a child.”
The judge said neither parents showed any remorse for what they had done. Their lawyers asked the court to have mercy on them, but the judge commented: ‘Is there any evidence that they showed this child mercy? I cannot find any.”
The father claimed he knew nothing of her injuries, as he mostly worked. He only saw some of her facial injuries for the first time when he lifted the blanket in the morgue after her death to say his final goodbyes.
Nicole’s mother claimed that her husband threw a Marmite bottle at their daughter, which hit her against the head.
The child later had an epileptic fit and fell out of her cot. She then hit her head on the foot of a cupboard. But Judge Bam rejected this evidence and found the mother gave her the final death blow.
A pathologist told the court that the child was malnourished , she had bruises across her body, inducing a host of cigarette burns and her leg had been broken previously and simply left to grow on by itself.
A picture was painted to Judge Bam of a helpless little girl who had been abused and assaulted over some time.
He commented during sentencing that a court will not become emotionally involved in a case, but added that one only had to look at the pictures handed to court of this abused, tortured child to see how she actually had suffered.
Nicole died 12 years ago and the case took years to be finalised due to administrative hiccups.
The defence said this should count in favour of the parents, as they lived a normal life for 12 years without abusing or killing another child. But the judge rejected this argument and said they had to face what they had done.