A man accused of raping and murdering his ex-girlfriend’s 18-month-old son was sentenced in the Western Cape high court on Monday.
Jeremiah Ruiters was murdered on June 12, 2017. He sustained a broken spine and 14 broken ribs, among other injuries. The child’s cause of death was determined to be multiple blunt force trauma.
Ameeroedien Peters, 29, was convicted in December 2019 on rape, murder and child abuse charges, while Jeremiah’s mother, Abigail Ruiters, 34, who faced a charge of child abuse and murder, was convicted for child abuse.
Peters and Ruiters were acquitted on child abuse charges pertaining to Ruiters’ surviving children, one eight and the other three years old at the time of the incident.
Entering into the courtroom dock, Ruiters waved at her family seated in the public gallery, while Peters sat down and hid his face.
Before handing down the sentences, Judge Monde Samela said Peters, who was Jeremiah’s caregiver while Ruiters worked, failed the deceased.
Samela called the injuries suffered by Jeremiah “inhumane torture” and “pain of the worst form.”
“You abused the trust this child had for you. The brutality and cruelness the deceased sustained such as multiple rib fractures, multiple injuries on his whole body, some old, some new – the rape, injury to his spine and head, before he died.
“Did he deserve to die at the hand of his caregiver? Did he deserve to die like that? The deceased was deprived of his life by you, Mr Peters,” Samela said.
He also called out Jeremiah’s biological father, Wesley Timm, who testified during the trial, saying he had “minimised” his own role with the children and left them in the hands of a negligent mother.
Directing his attention to Ruiters, Samela brought up her being pregnant with Peters’ baby during the trial. The child is currently in the foster care system.
Samela said Ruiters failed to protect Jeremiah, and was negligent in ignoring his injuries.
“It is my view no sentence can satisfy everyone and whatever sentence is handed down will never bring back the deceased,” said the judge.
“It’s no secret we read in the newspapers, hear on the radio and see on TV the killing, especially of children, women and elderly people. It is undoubtedly a frightening daily experience. In most cases innocent, harmless, defenceless people are victims and there’s no doubt [this was] the case here. We’re living in a violent society,” Samela said.
He said communities expected harsh sentences, and that the frequent marches and protests against violence reflected the frustrations of a society pleading for assistance.
Peters was sentenced to six years imprisonment for child abuse, life imprisonment for rape, and 15 years for murder.
His sentences are to run concurrently.
Ruiters, however, was only slapped with six years for child abuse – three years of which will be suspended for the next five years.
Jeremiah’s paternal aunt, Petina Timm, said she did not believe justice was served.
Speaking to African News Agency (ANA), Timm said: “We feel justice was definitely not served as his mother (Ruiters) walked off with a slap on the wrist, however, I’m glad the nightmare of the court case is finally over. I’m glad the court acknowledged that Wesley also abandoned his responsibility towards Jeremiah.”