‘Pupil’ nabs serial rapist

2013-11-10 14:00

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Constable disguises herself as a schoolgirl and ends the reign of terror in Lebowakgomo

There was no room for any mistake that could blow her cover.

She was in the middle of an open field, face to face with a “soft-spoken” serial rapist.

He asked her out and she played along, even asking to pose for a picture with him.

William Muroa had no idea who he was dealing with.

Dressed in school uniform, 32-year-old police constable Beauty-Queen Nchabeleng had only one thing in mind: to get Muroa behind bars and to save young women from him.

This week, Muroa was convicted of three counts of rape and robbery.

He will be sentenced later this month and, says Nchabeleng, he will then return to court to face additional rape charges.

The constable will never forget the victims’ stories – like the 17- and 19-year-olds who were forced to watch each other being raped.

She says: “He wielded a knife while raping one girl, threatening to kill her if the other one tried to flee, then moved on to the next one. Two friends were also among his victims who were raped in one incident. All these girls have been left with unimaginable emotional scars.

“The sad one is an incident where he raped one of his victims using plastic bread covering for a condom. Young girls were in danger with this man and I had to do something to prevent his rape and terror spree.”

Nchabeleng, a detective with the family violence, child protection and sexual offences (FCS) unit in Lebowakgomo outside Polokwane in Limpopo, first got involved when the fifth victim opened a case of rape.

By now, the police had analysed the modus operandi and were certain they were dealing with a serial rapist.

The suspect, whose identity was unknown at the time, was targeting schoolgirls. He would wait for them in an open field near Zone B in Lebowakgomo.

The first attack was reported in January 2011 and since then, the pressure had been mounting on the police to catch the man.

Nchabeleng was asked to take over all the cases and merge them into one investigation. She then interviewed his victims.

She is the mother of an 11-year-old daughter and often thought about how she would feel if something like this had happened to anyone close to her.

She was haunted by the images of the traumatised and helpless teens, their tears rolling down their faces as they recalled their rapes.

Nchabeleng decided to do what it would take to catch him. She would become the bait.

She got a school uniform and started joining pupils as they left Derrick Kobe High School each afternoon.

For two days, her gun hidden under her uniform, she walked slowly, far behind the other pupils. But there was no sign of the man. She stopped for a few days then returned to her vigil.

Nchabeleng was deep in thought about the case soon thereafter when she heard a man’s voice behind her. He greeted her and she turned around.

“Just before then, something told me maybe I was doing something wrong. However, I was not ready to give up.”

Now she was facing the man she was certain had made Zone B a place of terror for young women.

“I played it well and maintained my calm as he asked for my name and where I lived. He asked me out, but I told him I was in a rush to meet my mother and suggested we meet the following day.”

The man walked away, but the constable called him back.

“I asked him to pose for a picture with me and he was happy to do that. I then told him we should meet tomorrow and that I would not go to school.

“He was very gentle and did not look like he could cause any woman harm. He spoke softly and never showed any signs of being a monster.”

Later that day, victims identified the man in the photograph as the same person who had raped them.

Nchabeleng kept her “date” with the man the next morning.

She convinced him to go with her to the local police station to get an affidavit explaining why she was absent from school.

As soon as they walked into the police station, Nchabeleng’s colleagues pounced. Muroa was arrested and offered no resistance as he meekly allowed himself to be led to the cells.

The woman who ended his reign of terror did not plan on becoming a police officer.

Eight years ago, she was in her final year of language practice studies at the Tshwane University of Technology

She and six friends decided to apply to the police service because they were worried about graduating and then finding themselves without jobs.

“I was the only one who was successful. This said to me that I was meant to be a police officer and I joined the service at the beginning of 2006.

“Four years into the service, while working at Lebowakgomo Police Station, I was asked to join the FCS. Although I was not ready for it, I learnt a lot from my colleagues. I am now addicted to my job and its challenges.”

She says she knows that what she did to arrest Muroa was incredibly dangerous.

“Now, after securing his conviction, I look back and think: What the hell was I doing? I am only now thinking of the danger and what could have happened if anything had gone wrong, but I will definitely do it again if I have to.”

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