Rape, sexual assault case opened 20 years later

2008-09-15 00:00

A 62-year-old Northdale man will go on trial in the Pietermaritzburg High Court between June 1 and 5 next year on charges that he indecently assaulted and raped a 10-year-old girl in the Durban area over 20 years ago.

The accused cannot be named until he has pleaded to the charges.

The alleged rape victim laid a charge against the accused for the first time on July 31, 2003, some 17 years after the crimes were committed, according to the state’s indictment.

The accused appeared briefly before Judge Thumba Pillay and two assessors in the high court yesterday and the matter was postponed for trial until next year.

The state’s indictment alleges that the man indecently assaulted the girl on various occasions between 1984 and 1987 at Phoenix near Durban. It is alleged that he raped the girl in August 1986 at the same address.

At the time of the rape, she was 10 years old.

According to the summary of allegations contained in the indictment, the girl lived with her parents and siblings in Phoenix at that time.

The accused, a married man with four children, attended the same church as the child’s family.

After the alleged victim’s father died in 1984, the accused became a frequent visitor to the girl’s home.

During his visits there between 1984 and 1987, he allegedly indecently assaulted her on various occasions by touching her, kissing her and committing other indecent acts.

In August 1986, while visiting the child’s family home, he allegedly raped her.

The state alleges further that about a year after the rape, the accused eloped with the victim’s 20-year-old sister.

According to the indictment, the victim did not make any disclosure about the alleged indecent assaults or rape until 1993, about seven years after the incidents had allegedly occurred.

She thereafter, in 2003, allegedly confronted the accused about the rape at a family meeting resulting in an “exchange of words and actions”.

The alleged victim’s older sister reportedly laid charges of malicious injury to property and crimen injuria against her younger sibling and her husband (the accused) in connection with the incident, but the charges were later withdrawn.

Legal sources told The Witness yesterday that it is unusual, but not unheard of, for cases of rape or sexual assault to go to trial after such a long period of time. There is no bar against laying a charge of rape (or murder) after 20 years, unlike other criminal charges.

In such cases, however, a court is required to exercise extreme caution when examining the reliability of the evidence before it.

In March last year, the Supreme Court of Appeal (SCA) dismissed the appeals of two men, Mark Cornick and Leonard Kinnear, against their convictions and sentences in the Cape of five and four years’ imprisonment respectively for the rape of a woman who only reported it 19 years after it happened.

Her memory was jogged when she accidentally met up with Cornick and became hysterical after recognising him. She thereafter told her husband for the first time about the rapes that happened at a friend’s home when she was 14 years old.

The SCA ruled that her evidence in that case proved the guilt of the accused beyond a reasonable doubt.

ingrido@witness.co.za

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