WATCH | Putting the cuffs on an alleged serial rapist - the arrest of Willem Breytenbach

2019-12-03 16:59

"Police, open up!"

"Police, open up!

Silence.

"Police, open up!"

Silence.

Had the police's target, alleged sexual predator and former media executive Willem Breytenbach, somehow been tipped off about his imminent arrest and fled the scene?

The doors to his mother's seaside home in Reebok, Mossel Bay, were open, but there didn't seem to be any signs of life when police officers arrived there just after 12:00 on Tuesday.

The wind had picked up, blowing ominously around the corners of what seemed to be an empty house. The curtains were drawn and there were no sounds or signs of movement coming from it. In the backyard there was evidence of a recent braai - a Weber with three green plastic garden chairs arranged around it and a pair of flip-flops lying against the wall. Breytenbach was gone, it seemed.

Moments later police proceeded inside.

The house did not seem disturbed. It did not look as though anyone had made a hasty, desperate escape. A laptop was half-folded on a table in the modestly decorated house, a cellphone lying inconspicuously on the kitchen counter. 


FOLLOW THE STORY | A podcast series and live investigation into a sexual predator


As cameras were clicking and while windows were being peeked into, the house alarm went off, triggered, as it later turned out, by Breytenbach's mother who pressed the panic button in her distress. 

Warrant Officer Rowan Andrews of the Western Cape Family Violence, Child Protection and Sexual Offences Unit asked the media teams of News24 and Netwerk24 - who had been alerted to Breytenbach's imminent arrest - to leave the premises as the police tried to elicit information from Breytenbach's mother and sister-in-law who were found inside the house.  A few moments later, the officers emerged from the house, in a hurry. "He's at his psychologist," Andrews said as he and the other officers got into their vehicle and rushed to the offices of psychiatrist Dr Pieter Smit in Hartenbos about nine kilometres away.It was here that Breytenbach was taken into custody and led out down the steps of the practice where the police car stood waiting.

Breytenbach, a former teacher, had almost inadvertently evaded arrest.

Alleged abuse going back decades

Johannesburg-based Deon Wiggett has accused Breytenbach of raping him in 1997 when he was 17 years old. At the time, Breytenbach was a journalist at Die Burger and in charge of a school newspaper project for Media24. He has also been accused of sexually molesting several schoolboys at three schools he taught at from 1989 to 1994, among them Grey College in Bloemfontein. 

The house, which is situated near Mossel Bay in the southern Cape, has been Breytenbach's hideout since he fled Cape Town in early November following the podcast series by Wiggett, My Only Story, which was co-published by News24.

Andrews arrived back at the house with three colleagues, sergeants Mziwethu Sidinana, Soretha van Zyl and Vatiswa Tsotso, and Breytenbach. 

Shoulders slumped; eyes fixed to the ground

Dressed in a short-sleeved chequered shirt and jeans, Breytenbach avoided eye contact and walked calmly, shoulders slightly slumped, his eyes fixed on the ground in front of him as Andrews and his colleagues led him outside.

He did not respond to any questions and did not appear to have any semblance of the bombastic, self-assured and controlling individual one expected based on the countless descriptions by former colleagues and alleged victims. 

The one thing that one cannot disregard is the sheer size of the man. He towers above all those around him. He had to carefully navigate depositing himself in the back seat of the Toyota Avanza as Sidinana held the door for him. 

Breytenbach was first taken back to the house in Reebok where he remained with the police for a while before emerging in a fresh set of clothes - a maroon-and-blue striped golf shirt, blue jeans and grey-and-orange Nike sneakers. 

Again, he stared in front of him blankly, seemingly oblivious to the cameras that were aimed at him, shuttering away. 

"He has told us he would co-operate," said Andrews who served the warrant of arrest on Breytenbach. 

He was taken to the Da Gamaskop child protection unit in Mossel Bay for processing. Here Breytenbach emerged handcuffed, clutching a bottle of still water between his hands, before being whisked into the building, a large steel security door shutting behind him. 

Andrews earlier told News24 that - once processed - Breytenbach would be taken to Cape Town where he will be held at the Cape Town Central police station. He is expected to appear in the Cape Town Magistrate's Court on Wednesday or Thursday. 

  • By Friday, 26 men had told Wiggett and News24 that Breytenbach had sexually assaulted and/or groomed them.
  • Warrant Officer Rowan Andrews has asked members of the public with information that can assist the case to contact him on 082 729 8155 or 021 590 1001.

Read more on:    saps  |  willem breytenbach  |  deon wiggett  |  my only story
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