WARNING: This post contains content that may upset some readers.
The police constable who investigated the murder of Chevonne Rusch says the toddler’s mother, Rochelle Botha, who is now on trial on charges of murdering Chevonne, had three different versions of what happened on the day of Chevonne’s death.
The versions range from Botha being tied up and detained by her co-accused and ex-fiancé, Stefan van Niekerk, to Chevonne slipping on a sponge and falling.
These stories were told to several people even before Botha was ever a suspect in the case.
The constable in question testified in a session of the High Court in Palm Ridge this week about all the conversations she had with Botha and the statements she made after Chevonne’s death.
“In the days that I consulted with Botha about what happened, she gave me three different stories about what exactly happened,” says the witness.
In the first version, Botha argued that Van Niekerk was very “grumpy” on the day of Chevonne’s death because he apparently lost his job. He also reportedly yelled at Chevonne after she spilled water, after which she wet herself.
Botha indicated in a written statement that Van Niekerk took Chevonne to bathe, but that she continuously shouted to go to Botha. Chevonne’s shouting suddenly stopped and Van Niekerk ran from the bathroom to their room. Botha followed him and apparently came across a pot-blue Chevonne.
“She (Botha) said that she kicked Van Niekerk to get away from Chevonne, but that he pushed her away. She fell on the floor, got up and tried to push him away again,” says the witness.
Van Niekerk apparently left the room, but Chevonne was already stiff and did not respond to Botha. Botha claims that she was still breathing at that stage.
In another version passed on to family members, Botha said Chevonne was in the bathroom when she slipped on a sponge, fell and hit her head.
In another version, which Botha told while she took the police through the house where the incident took place days later, she told the investigating officer, as well as other witnesses, that when she found Van Niekerk and Chevonne in the room, was he strangling the toddler.
“She (Botha) told how Chevonne apparently complained that she had to dry herself and when she entered the room, she saw Van Niekerk strangling Chevonne on the carpet,” says another witness.
“When Botha tried to get Van Niekerk away from Chevonne, Chevonne apparently shouted at Van Niekerk to leave her mother alone.”
In a different version, she told how Van Niekerk tied her to a plastic chair in another part of the yard, and left a friend with Botha to watch over her.
“I asked her (Botha) why she didn’t scream, since the part of the yard where she was tied up is very close to the neighbors, but she didn’t answer me,” says one witness.
“I also looked, but found no plastic chair on the yard, only a white tire.”
A police sergeant says this very version was also told to him while he was taking Botha’s statement. She argued in this statement that the last time she saw Chevonne was just before she was tied up. She only heard how Chevonne screamed, stopped it, and how people got into a car and drove away.
However, Botha’s lawyer questioned the validity of this statement. He argued that Botha did not have the opportunity to read the statement before she signed it, otherwise she would have seen that the home address was incorrect.
However, the sergeant maintained that Botha did check the statement.
Botha sat continuously in the dock sobbing. At one stage, when the court adjourned, she briefly told a family member that she was tired.
“I don’t want anymore,” she whispered.
“He (Van Niekerk) doesn’t feel anything. It’s not his children.”