Pretoria – A 28-year-old mother accused of murdering her three-week-old baby told the High Court in Pretoria on Wednesday she was not mentally unstable.
Juanita Fourie, whose surname appears as Oldewage on the charge sheet, said she would not have been able to run a bottle store six days a week if she had been unstable.
She co-owned the Port Elizabeth business and was using the profits to pay her lawyer, she said.
Fourie told the court she was divorcing her co-accused Christiaan Oldewage, and was now using the surname Fourie.
Fourie and her husband are accused of abusing and murdering Fourie’s three-week-old baby Christiaan.
The baby died from multiple injuries in the Montana Hospital, in the north of Pretoria, hours after being admitted on December 13, 2011.
The baby had a fractured skull and multiple broken ribs.
The State on Wednesday asked the court to withdraw Fourie’s bail and refer her to a psychiatric hospital for observation.
This was after Fourie failed to turn up for her trial on Monday.
Her legal representative Carlo Viljoen told the court that she had suffered a nervous breakdown and was not fit to stand trial.
He also handed in a psychological report stating that Fourie suffered from anxiety and depression, was unable to face court proceedings and may only be ready to face the court on Friday.
Judge Lettie Malopa-Sethosa issued a warrant for her arrest, but held it over until Wednesday.
On Tuesday, Viljoen backtracked and submitted that Fourie was mentally fit and ready to proceed with the trial.
Fourie testified that she had not been in court on Monday because of incorrect advice she received from her advocate and psychologist.
“Emotionally I did not feel ready to be here.
“I’m a mother. I lost my child. I’m accused of his murder.
She testified that she had received death threats, but conceded they were not from her husband.
“The last time I was in court I was followed and robbed of a statement and photos I wanted to use in court.
“Everything just built up and I didn’t feel ready at that stage, but I’m ready today.
Fourie said she had moved to Margate, in KwaZulu-Natal, to “get away from everything”.
“I was staying with my godmother, but she was shot in the face (with a paintball gun) one morning when she opened the door. “She told me it was meant for me.”
Fourie said she was afraid to return to Pretoria, and that she had “lost everything” due to the negative publicity she received.
“I’m not mentally ill. I’m a mother who lost a child. I’m experiencing heartache. I had to give birth. It’s hard… I work and I do my investigations and I stay strong.”
Fourie told the court she had already been judged by her friends and family in Pretoria and lost her business as a hairdresser because of the allegations against her.
She testified that she had no history of depression and was not on medication, but said she wanted to avoid standing in court “with tears falling” and being unable to answer questions.
Fourie admitted that she had not always signed in with the police on Mondays, as her bail conditions stipulated, as she had been under the impression she could report on any day of the week.
Prosecutor Cornelia Harmzen argued that Fourie’s bail should be revoked, however, Malopa said she was prepared to give Fourie the benefit of the doubt.
Malopa described Fourie’s failure to come to court on Monday as a tactic to delay the trial and warned Fourie that only the court could excuse her from attendance.
Malopa postponed the trial to December 2 and extended Fourie’s bail, on condition that she report to the Port Edward police station on Mondays and Fridays.
Oldewage remained in custody, after abandoning his bail application.
* If you use Gmail to read IOL’s newsletters, note that Google is rolling out a new tabbed inbox that filters your mail into 5 separate tabs – Primary, Social, Promotions, Updates and Forums. IOL emails will probably be sent to the “Promotions” tab instead of the “Primary” tab. If you don’t want it that way, drag the newsletter from the Promotions tab to the Primary tab. An alert will pop up. Click “yes” and your newsletters will continue to go to your Primary inbox.