Convicted child rapist Nicholas Ninow's grandmother, who raised him, has pleaded with the court to recognise he is not just the so-called Dros rapist, but that he also has a good side.
Taking the stand to testify in mitigation of sentence in the Gauteng High Court in Pretoria on Wednesday, Pauline Gericke said there were two sides to Ninow.
"I want the court to recognise that Nicholas is not just the Dros rapist. There's another side to Nicholas, there's a good side, there's a side that I love, there's a side that I raised to be a good boy," Gericke said as she broke down in tears, sobbing uncontrollably.
"But, because of the first eight years of his life, when he was abused and used, and because of the drugs that was brought into his life - and I do not for one minute say that Nicholas should not be punished - I do not say that he's innocent, he is guilty, I know that.
"But I do believe that there are mitigating circumstances and that there is another side to Nicholas, that he is not the Dros rapist … that's all I have to say," she told the court.
Drugs as an excuse
Gericke took the same line as Ninow when he testified, saying he was an entirely different person when he was sober.
"When Nicholas is on drugs, he is not the child that I raised. He is not the boy that I raised him to be. When Nicholas is on drugs, he becomes delusional, he becomes aggressive, he gets quite manic, he doesn't reason properly.
"He is not himself, he looks different, he behaves differently, he speaks differently."
Gericke told the court she truly believed that because Ninow had stopped taking his psychiatric medication three weeks before the incident, coupled with the alcohol and drugs, it had an effect on his state of mind that led him to raping a minor.
"Nicholas is not just someone that would hurt a child, or harm anyone else. In fact, when he got aggressive [while high] he would harm himself, but never anyone else," she said.
News24 earlier reported that when Ninow took the stand he shirked responsibility for his actions, arguing that, had he been sober, he would never have raped the seven-year-old girl in the bathroom of a Dros restaurant in Pretoria in 2018.
"Anything is possible when I am on drugs and alcohol. I did act on impulse and there is nothing I can say to make it better," he testified.
"I intentionally did those things to that girl, but my regret came too late. I knew what I was doing, with my mental state I knew what I was doing. Consequences meant nothing to me, I was full of hatred."
Ninow's comments on Wednesday were contradictory with what he said in his plea agreement
Gericke also took the opportunity on Wednesday to apologise to the victim and her family for what her grandson had done. As she apologised, she broke down in tears again, with Ninow sobbing from the dock.
"I would so much like the opportunity to talk to those parents and tell them how sorry I am for what happened to their little girl and that it was my child that did it to them.
"I would like to tell the little girl that I am so sorry, and my [grand] son is so sorry, it doesn't matter what other people believe. I know my [grand] son is heartbroken for that child."
Clinical psychologist Marina Genis, in her report before the court, concluded that Ninow needed to undergo rehabilitation for drugs and alcohol. She had conducted interviews with him, his former fiancée, a friend and Gericke.
Genis testified that unless Ninow underwent treatment, he was at risk of re-offending. She recommended that he see a psychiatrist, psychologist and attend group therapy programmes.
She also detailed Ninow's upbringing, saying he was sexually abused twice before he turned eight and that he was first introduced to hard drugs by his mother when he was barely 13 years old.
Genis said he had tried to commit suicide several times and that he had been in and out of rehab a number of times. Each time, he successfully completed the programmes, only to relapse months later.
She added there was still a possibility that Ninow could be rehabilitated, noting he was not a paedophile and that it was likely he became aroused because he was high.
Prosecutor Dorah Ngobeni disputed Genis' testimony, pointing out that Ninow had failed to rehabilitate on five different occasions since turning 13.
Probation officer Dete Kelder echoed Genis' testimony, saying she believed Ninow was remorseful.
Despite pointing out mitigating factors, Kelder was of the belief that he deserved to be sentenced to life as the aggravating factors in the case outweighed the mitigating circumstances.
After a week-long trial in September, Judge Mokhine Mosopa found Ninow guilty of rape, possession of an illegal substance and defeating the ends of justice.
He was found not guilty of assaulting two Dros employees after he was caught.
News24 previously reported that Judge Mosopa had rejected Ninow's version that he was in the bathroom first, doing drugs, when the victim entered and asked to urinate.
He found that Ninow had stalked the victim, followed her into the bathroom and then raped her, making his actions premeditated and not impulsive as he had argued in his plea explanation.
Judge Mosopa also found that Ninow's actions were premeditated, in that he changed his seat at the restaurant so that he could have a clearer view of the children's play area to stalk his victim and strike when the opportunity presented itself.