Kimberley – The parents of a toddler whose body was found in a veld adjacent to the Witdam police station earlier this year were denied bail in the Galeshewe Magistrate’s Court on Thursday.
William Julius, 40, and his estranged lover, Kelapetswe Sheppard, 26, will remain in custody until their next appearance in June, after their bail applications were denied by Magistrate Conraad Prinsloo.
The couple have been accused of murder and child neglect following the discovery of the two-year-old girl’s body in the veld on February 3.
Her body was found wrapped in a towel, wearing only a disposable nappy, by a passers-by a number of hours after she was last reportedly seen alive.
An autopsy later revealed that she had suffered a dislocated shoulder and a cracked skull, consistent with a hard hit to the head and that this was the probable cause of her death.
The accused were arrested and charged with the child’s murder on February 4 and have been in custody since then.
While rejecting their schedule five application, Prinsloo was extremely critical of the couple’s parenting and questioned several inconsistencies regarding their contradictory accounts of what transpired on the night in question.
Under cross-examination on Thursday morning, the investigating officer, Sergeant Harold Neels, said that Julius claimed to have left the child on her mother’s doorstep to “spite” his co-accused after he apparently arrived at her shack where she was behind closed doors with another man.
“He (Julius) says that he went to the door of the shack and knocked,” testified Neels. “She (Sheppard) asked who it was and he replied that he was bringing the child and he would leave her at the door. She told him that she was busy and that he shouldn’t enter.”
According to statements, Julius told Sheppard that he was leaving the child at the door of the shack.
“He then put the child on the towel and said, ‘Your mother says she is busy so you must wait at the door,” the IO continued. “He turned around and went home. He says that is the last time he saw the child.”
However, Neels added that according to Sheppard, she was not at home when Julius left the child at her door. “She slept at her boyfriend’s place in Santa Centre.
“On the Saturday morning (February 3) she met Julius and asked where the child was. He told her that the child was playing with her cousins. Sheppard didn’t enquire further or go and look for her. She went back to sleep at around 9am.”
The IO testified that at about noon, a friend asked Sheppard if she had found her daughter and informed her that the body of a child had been found near the Witdam police station.
“The accused said she wasn’t feeling well, told her friend to go look and went back to sleep.
“On the Sunday morning, the friend asked her about the child again. They went back to Julius who told them to stop asking about nonsense. They then went to open a missing child report between 11am and noon.”
When asked whether he felt bail should be granted, the IO said that while it was a decision for the court to determine, he felt that the likelihood that Julius had left the child on her mother’s doorstep was remote, adding that it was nearly impossible that the child could have made her way on her own to the area where her body was found.
“The child was two years old,” he emphasised. “It’s impossible for the child to have moved to the veld on her own. It’s more than a kilometre away.”
After thanking the IO for his “thorough investigation”, Prinsloo denied bail for both accused, saying that as the last person to have reportedly seen the child alive, the court was of the impression that Julius should have been able to explain the death.
He added that witness testimony contradicted Julius’ account that Sheppard was inside the shack when he left the child at her doorstep.
Prinsloo further lambasted Sheppard for neglecting her duties as a mother and for failing to look after her child and confirm her whereabouts and safety.
“Even if Julius did leave the child there, I find it shocking that he would discard the toddler like a piece of bread and walk away knowing that she could disappear or get hurt,” said Prinsloo. “You don’t leave a two-year-old unattended. He must have realised something could happen to her but he left.
“I also find it strange that the second accused (Sheppard) was so nonchalant about her missing child and the news that a body was found at Witdam.
“Regarding the second accused, I have major criticism of her as a mother,” said Prinsloo, pointing out that Sheppard had initially left the child at a tavern, while she walked away with another man.
“There is no indication that she planned on coming back. She had no way of knowing that Julius would remove the child, making her very reckless.
“She only tried to find out where the child was the next morning when the child was already dead.
“Any normal woman would have gone to check up on her child.
“I’m not willing to grant her bail in the light of her reckless behaviour.”