Police and respondents survey the damage caused by the vehicle fire

As the child abuse saga of Phoenix Baby X continues, an appeal has been made by police to the public to stop circulating pictures of the injured child on social media.

Phoenix SAPS communications officer, Cpt L Naidoo, said, “The picture in circulation of the abused child needs to stop immediately for the safety of the child. We understand the anger and wrath of the public and locals but we now need to respect the safety of the child and allow the law to takes it course.”

Speaking to the Phoenix Tabloid, director of the victim support centre, known as, Voice (Victim Outreach Information Centre), Alvin Brijlal, said the circulation of the picture can cause secondary trauma for the little victim. “This child is now in a recovery phase. We need to keep her protected. She is in a private hospital room and security has been beefed up for her protection and well-being. Her dad is currently her daily visitor,” said Brijlal.

Since the video of the little girl’s abuse went viral last week, her mother is in hiding and the mom’s boyfriend handed himself over to police on Friday. The charges of assault GBH changed to attempted murder. Cpt Naidoo said, “In a shocking twist in the attempted murder of the four-year-old Phoenix girl, on Friday night the 20-year-old boyfriend implicated in the violent abuse of the child, handed himself over to the Phoenix SAPS investigating officer. The accused in the case feared for his life after a vehicle was set alight at his parents’ home on Thursday night. He then handed himself over to police. The accused is now detained at Westville Prison.”

Cpt Naidoo said the bail has not been revoked for the child’s mother. “The female accused in the case is still out on bail,” she added.

Spokesperson for the father of the beaten child who wished to remain anonymous, said, “We welcome the news that the charges have been upgraded to Attempted Murder. We want justice for our baby. She needs to be with her family, her dad, showered with love.”

“Baby did complain previously about ill-treatment at the hands of her mum’s boyfriend. Interventions were attempted but failed because her mum always disregarded the claims and said baby was lying. Social workers were contacted.  Baby said her mum’s boyfriend rubbed soap in her eyes and he made her sleep on the floor which she said was so hard and hurt her body. She said as she slept on the floor he would pass her and kick her. Baby also said that her mum’s boyfriend often locked her in the toilet,” the paternal family spokesperson added.

It is believed that it was the child’s recurring ‘wetting herself’ issue that sparked the boyfriend and the child’s mum’s anger and fury and subsequent violent assault of the little girl on video.

Brijlal said, “Sadly, this child was let down by some authorities yet now they are claiming to be so concerned. There are many children in our society that are being raped, beaten, molested and even verbally abused. This must stop. The matter regarding justice will be closely monitored by me and no stone will be left unturned.”

Phoenix Child Welfare director, Aroona Chetty, echoed the sentiments shared by Brijlal and in an interview with the Phoenix Tabloid, said though she cannot comment on the case of abuse in question, she can confirm that abuse in the Phoenix community is rife. “We need to break the silence. If you hear of something strange going on, report it. Call the authorities. We will investigate. Neighbours, if you hear screams and crying, go and check. For the safety and well-being of a child that may reside there, go and check that all is well. If not, report the incident,” said Chetty.

Local community activist and religious leader, Pst Mervin Reddy, said, “This Baby X of Phoenix will be given every chance to recover and live a normal, healthy life. She is safe and will continue to be protected whilst in hospital. On Friday, I met with a delegation from the MEC of Health’s office, the hospital CEO, where the child is being treated and some religious leaders from the Phoenix Christian Leaders Unlimited group. We will not allow what happened to Baby Shahiel to recur. I have confirmed that a trust fund is in the process of being set up for the child. I called the attorneys to verify the authenticity of a document referring to the fund that’s circulating on social media.”

Brijlal said a protest has been organised for members of the community to meet at the Verulam Magistrate’s Court on 11 April when the accused are set to appear. “These perpetrators and other offenders out there need to realise that the justice system and social welfare may fail child victims at times, but the public and local community will push for justice until it is served. It is frightening for such offenders to fall in the hands of a seething community,” said Brijlal.