Two-and-a-half years after little Jeremiah Ruiters’ tragic death, Peters, 28, was found guilty of child abuse, rape and murder.
His mother was found guilty of child abuse, but acquitted of his murder.
The toddler was alone with Peters when he was killed on 12 June 2017, and had sustained multiple injuries including a broken spine, 14 broken ribs.
His cause of death was determined to be multiple blunt force trauma.
Peters and Ruiters were both acquitted on child abuse charges pertaining to Ruiters’ surviving children, Kiana, 10, and Zara, 5.
In addition, Ruiters’ bail has been revoked and she will stay in jail until sentencing proceedings commence in February next year.
A packed gallery listened intently as Judge Monde Samela handed down his judgement on Wednesday.
Peters dozed off during most of the proceedings while Ruiters sat nervously, grinding her teeth in the dock.
Samela said social workers had failed little Jeremiah: “They did not do their job well.”
He commended all state witnesses as he saw them to be truthful and credible, especially Kiana, Ruiters’ eldest daughter.
“Kiana, at that age [eight] gave a clear account of what happened on that day and mentioned she saw blood on the deceased’s head which was corroborated by the clinic sister and the medical doctor,” Samela said.
He rejected Peters’ version of events as vague.
According to Peters, he had a job and often left Ruiters’ three children with a neighbour or his friend Shakes.
But Ruiters said he did not work and looked after her kids full time.
He claimed that on the day Jeremiah died, he ran with him to the hospital but fell in the street, landing on top of the child.
“The accused was very evasive and failed to answer simple questions,” said Samela.
“His version of leaving the children by the neighbour and Shakes (his friend) seems to be an imaginary story he created.
“He was unable to give a clear picture of how he fell with the deceased and could not explain all injuries contrary to medical evidence.
“The accused was not honest, reliable or credible,” Samela said.
He also slammed Ruiters, saying she clearly wanted to shift the blame on Peters.
“The accused is in denial and totally distances herself from the injuries of the deceased, despite the fact that she washed the deceased, but denied seeing injuries.
“She puts blame 100% on accused one. Taking into account the medical evidence and common sense it’s highly improbable the mother would not notice or pick up something wrong with the deceased as he would have been in pain,” Samela said.
Peters scowled as Samela found him guilty, stomping his foot, while Ruiters broke down in tears.
As she took her bag, intent on leaving the courtroom, she was told by the court orderly to remain in the dock.
State Prosecutor, Maria Marshall, then asked Samela to revoke Ruiters’ bail: “As she has been found guilty and could face 10 years imprisonment, I submit the circumstances have changed and she be kept in custody.”
A legal eagle standing in for Ruiters’ defence lawyer, Yasmin Rajap, submitted that she was not a flight risk, but an adamant Samela said: “We will be sending the wrong message to parents who neglect their children as there is an outcry in South Africa for children, elderly and women to be protected.
“The situation has changed and she will remain inside.”
Outside court, Jeremiah’s paternal family expressed anger that Ruiters got acquitted on the murder charge.
Aunt Petina Timm said: “We are unhappy about the outcome. For me, justice did not take its course. If it wasn’t for her and what she allowed, I don’t think he (Peters) would have been able to put an end to my little nephew’s life.”
Sentencing starts on 11 February.