A South African lesbian couple has been found guilty of murdering the child of one of the women – a four year old toddler – in a sensational trial.

Hanlie Botha, 33 and Thea de Nysschen, 34 were both convicted of the murder of Jandre Botha in 2003. The boy died of multiple injuries to his head and body after he had been assaulted by De Nysschen some nine days earlier.

The two women were also found guilty of assault with intent to do grievous bodily harm and for failing to secure medical help for the boy. The couple had claimed that the child had injured himself by falling in the bath. Witnesses said that the child was beaten for refusing to call de Nysschen “daddy”.

According to the magistrate Rita Willemse, Botha – who she described as a “spineless mother” – allowed the beatings to take place and took part in the attempted cover up of the murder. Willemse said in the verdict that, “It is unthinkable that the mother of the child could not have known about these fatal injuries. The deceased also had broken legs, and his mother should have been aware of this.”

Attempts by Jan Botha, Jandre’s father – who was not aware of the abuse – to gain custody of the child before his death had failed.

Social workers were slammed by Willemse who said that they had contributed to the death through their negligence. She particularly singled out Denise Herbst, a Vereeniging social worker, who suspected that the child was being seriously abused, but did not take sufficient action and “neglected her duty towards the toddler”.

The case has been postponed until June 26, when sentencing procedures are set to begin.

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