According to witnesses, the murdered toddler Chevonne Rusch’s great-grandfather died of a “broken heart”.
Brian Rusch (77) died last week before the start of the trial. He has “only deteriorated” since the murder of Chevonne.
“Her death was a shock. It broke him. He was devastated,” a witness said this week in a session of the High Court in Palm Ridge.
“He just gave up on life.”
Chevonne’s mother, Rochelle Botha, and her ex-fiancé, Stefan van Niekerk, are on trial for the toddler’s murder. The trial began this week and is expected to continue for a few more weeks.
Witnesses pointed out this week that Chevonne and her siblings had moved from house to house since their birth.
However, since Chevonne was nine months old, she lived with her grandparents because she was apparently badly neglected. She later went to live with other relatives, but Brian still saw her often and took care of her.
Weeks before the murder of Chevonne, Botha and Van Niekerk failed to reunite the toddler with her sister and other relatives as they had promised.
However, Brian saw her briefly before her death, but when he wanted to hug her, she screamed and cried.
One of the witnesses who was present during this interaction says she was shocked by Chevonne’s reaction, as she loved her great-grandfather as much as he loved her.
“They were very close to each other,” says the witness.
“That little one didn’t deserve what happened to her.”
Chevonne, relatives hurt
Botha admitted in one of her statements that she gave to the police that Van Niekerk had been aggressive towards her and her children before.
Incidents where Chevonne suffered bruises and burns due to “falls” were told in court this week.
Even the two-year-old’s relatives had a hard time.
A doctor testified this week that at one stage he examined one of Chevonne’s relatives after family members were concerned that he had been assaulted or mistreated.
The doctor noted a total of 13 injuries to the child in his report. Some of the injuries were days old, while others had healed months ago but were still visible.
Among other things, the doctor pointed out that the child had a cut on his head, which may have been caused by a hard object such as a pipe or a bottle.
In addition, he had several bruises in places such as his wrists, knuckles and feet.
“These types of injuries are often caused when someone is hit with a hard object, or is even involved in a fight with someone,” said the doctor.
“However, I came to the conclusion that the type of injuries the child suffered could not have been self-inflicted.
“The motive behind the injuries was definitely to cause serious damage.”
The court case continues on Monday when Chevonne’s relatives will testify about their experience in a closed court. They are only five and six years old.