Els: The truth has set me free
Pretoria - He had always known the truth would set him free, a jubilant Jurie Els told reporters on Friday after being acquitted on charges of molesting his former protégé, Robbie Klay, as a child.
Holding his wife, former high jumping champion Hestrie Cloete's hand, the Afrikaans singer said he had returned to South Africa voluntarily and had paid for his own ticket so that he could prove his innocence.
It had been a tough 22 months and he now just wanted to relax and spend time with his children, wife and family before returning to New Zealand.
Els said he had mixed feelings about Klay, but had forgiven him, although "the law would have to take its course". He was referring to his planned damages claim against Klay.
"I am angry, but I also feel he [Klay] needs help," he said.
Hestrie: No doubt about Jurie
Cloete said she had not doubted her husband's innocence for a second and knew that he was still the same man she had married.
She said the ordeal of the trial had deepened their faith and had brought them closer together as a family.
Acquitting Els, Acting Judge Eksteen said that although Els had not impressed him as a witness, the burden of proof was not on his shoulders and there was no reason to reject his version as false.
Els denied molesting Klay as a child, claiming Klay had fabricated his evidence.
"There is merely a suspicion against the accused, but a suspicion is not enough," the judge said.
Referring to the evidence of a highly qualified psychologist, Judge Eksteen said Klay clearly showed signs of having been sexually molested as a child, but his credibility about the identity of his molester was "shaky".
Klay 'a pathetic witness'
The court could not find that he was an absolute liar, but his evidence was of such a nature that the court could not legally rely on it for a conviction.
Klay was described as a "pathetic witness" who did not answer questions, contradicted himself and collapsed completely in cross-examination.
Even Klay's mother had told a magazine her son was a liar and it was an open question if Klay had now stopped lying, the judge said.
It could not be excluded that Klay had a motive for laying the charges, nor could he ignore the fact that a magazine had paid Klay R10 000 for his story.
It was probable that Klay had initially only "lifted the corner of the veil" about his molestation "to wet the public's appetite" and had only lifted the veil fully after money exchanged hands.
"It is improbable that he wanted to warn other children about the dangers of molestation, but then only lifts the corner of the veil... It is probably about personal profit and possibly revenge," he said.
Judge Eksteen said it was clear that Els did a lot for Klay and had treated Klay as a true son in his home.
It struck one that their good relationship only soured after Klay made a girl pregnant and Els met Cloete.
The possibility that one or both of them may have been jealous could not be excluded.
Klay was "deeply attached" to Els and losing his support must have been traumatic.
He pointed out that Klay had left school as a young boy, lost all contact with children of his own age and was assimilated into an adult lifestyle for which he probably was not ready.
Judge Eksteen criticised Klay's mother, Jenny Liebenberg, for "neglecting her duties" as a mother, resulting in her son being isolated, not developing independently and not being prepared for adult life.
He also severely criticised Els, a qualified teacher, for not helping Klay when he saw the young boy had severe personality problems and suspected that he might have been molested.
He said Els had been verbose, evaded questions and had portrayed Klay as virtually an "imbecile" while blowing his own trumpet at every opportunity.
"He tells the court how forgiving he is... He says he's a Christian... He wants to convince the court he's a pedagogue at heart, but then he does nothing to help when he sees the young boy has a personality problem," the judge said.