Windhoek-Catharina Agnes van den Berg, 52, the owner of the day care where an 11-month-old toddler drowned five years ago, walked out of court a free woman yesterday after she was handed down a suspended sentence. Van den Berg was found guilty of culpable homicide on January 16 by the Windhoek Magistrate’s Court.
Van den Berg was sentenced to five years in prison, which was wholly suspended.
When handing down judgement the magistrate Ingrid Unengu said the case was an emotional one not only for her but for the mother of the deceased toddler, and deciding on an appropriate sentence was hard as the accused chose not to testify in court.
“It should be noted that there was a momentary lack of concentration on the part of the accused, which caused the unfortunate death of the toddler,” explained Unengu.
Unengu said that although Van den Berg faced a serious charge and has to carry a huge burden on her shoulders for the rest of her life, the court looked at the fact that Van den Berg is a first-time offender, keeping in mind that she is 52 years of age and had never had run-ins with the law.
Unengu explained that the accused’s financial situation in which she is the breadwinner of the family, who only earn N$250 a day, does not put her in a position to a hefty fine if it were to be imposed.
In 2012, Van den Berg failed to keep an attentive eye on the toddler, who later consequently ended up in the swimming pool in the backyard of her home. According to witnesses, one of the children that was at the centre left the door to the pool open.
The toddler then crawled out from the room where all the children were taking a nap, consequently falling into the swimming pool outside the house.
However, the court said that it was not in the hands of the accused to intentionally cause the death of the toddler since she tried her best to save the toddler’s life.
Allegedly on that fateful day, Van den Berg performed CPR on the toddler in an effort to save his life after the toddler was discovered in the pool and upon the arrival of the ambulance, the toddler was still breathing.
The victim Ferreira Scholtz’s mother, Suzette Jansen van Vuuren, who was very emotional, could not understand how the court would not give Van den Berg any time behind bars for the death of her son.
Speaking to New Era shortly after the judgement Van Vuuren said she was hoping for a stiffer sentence.
“She does not look remorseful at all, she did not even attempt to pay her respects or explain what exactly happened to my boy,” narrated the tearful Van Vuuren. Van Vuuren added she is the one that has to deal with the fact that her child is no more.
“It is uncalled for that the court had to consider her age – she was not 52 years old five years ago,” she said, emphasising that it would have been appropriate that Van den Berg got some jail time. Wiping tears off her face, Van Vuuren noted the suspended sentence shows day-care owners can walk away with just about anything.