Witness in sex trafficking trial 'was afraid', says alleged brothel owner held her against her will

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Yannick and Edward Ayuk at the in-loco inspection.
Yannick and Edward Ayuk at the in-loco inspection.
PHOTO: Jenni Evans/News24
  • A witness in a Cape Town sex trafficking trial was taken to task for inconsistencies between her statement to police, and her testimony.
  • She conceded that she told police one of the alleged brothel owners was her boyfriend.
  • However, she said that once at the safety of the police station, she spoke more freely.

A witness in a Cape Town sex trafficking trial, who alleges she was raped by one of the "brothel" ringleaders, testified that when the police raided the house and rescued her, she initially told them the owner was her boyfriend.

It was only once in the safety of a police station that she alleged he raped her.

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The woman, who may not be named, was being cross-examined on Monday in the Western Cape High Court about what she was doing at the house on Piet Grobler Street in Brooklyn, Cape Town, between August and September 2017. 

She testified that she went there willingly only once with a friend to have drinks. 

Then, she was picked up by one of the owners of the alleged brothel, who thought she might know the whereabouts of a sex worker who had not come home. 

She testified that he kept her against her will and raped her. She was freed when the police raided the property the following day.

READ | 'It was a bit bad': Why sex worker left home for alleged brothel

Cameroonian nationals Yannick and Edward Ayuk and Edward's estranged wife, Leandra Williams Ayuk, from Springbok, have pleaded not guilty to a long list of charges, including human trafficking, rape, assault, and debt bondage.

They allegedly lured vulnerable, drug-addicted girls and women to the house to do sex work for them. The women were given free drugs, but had to give the Ayuks all the money they made as they trawled Koeberg Road for business.

But Edward Ayuk's lawyer, Mohamed Sibda, said his client told him the woman arrived at the house, unsolicited, in dirty, smelly clothes. 

He said the woman lived on the streets, so he let her bathe and wash her clothes and gave her a pair of tracksuit pants and a T-shirt to wear while her clothes dried. 

That night she entered his bedroom, took off her clothes and got into bed with him, and they had sex, he said.

She hung around the following day running an errand to fetch a pie, a coke and a packet of cigarettes from the spaza shop in their front garden, and boiled water for one of the women in the house to bathe. She sat between two men in the place, while they were making their sports bets for the day. 

According to Edward, the woman said she was living on the streets because she was trying to escape a stepfather who sexually assaulted her older sister, and she feared he would come for her next.  

During the morning, Edward's girlfriend phoned him to ask for airtime, and as he was walking out to the spaza shop to buy the airtime, the police raided them. 

ALSO READ | Sex trafficking accused says alleged victim fell asleep after clubbing, then left

The police wanted to know who the woman was, and asked her: "Are you doing sex work here?" She said no. 

She pointed to Edward and said she was his "girlfriend", which made the police laugh. 

The police made arrests, and hers was among the first witness statements taken.

She said that this version is not entirely true. She added that her statement, as presented in court, is typed, and the one she read at the police station was handwritten.

Edward and Yannick Ayuk in court dock
Edward Ayuk and his brother Yannick Ayuk in court

She said that she prefers to "roam the streets" because things are not good at home in Maitland, but she denied saying her stepfather would assault her. 

"I don't have a stepfather," she testified.

However, there were also discrepancies between what she wrote in her statement in September 2017, and what she told the court on Monday. The judge and Sibda reviewed her version several times for clarity. 

In her statement to the police, she said she was raped four times, but in court, she insisted she was raped once, not four times. 

When this inconsistency was flagged, she at first said she did not read the statement when she signed it, but after further cross-examination, said she did read it. 

She said she was asked what she was doing at the house and admitted that she told the police she was Edward's girlfriend. 

She was asked why she changed this in her statement, and instead, she said she was raped, held hostage, and feared for her life. 

"When I was there [at the house], I was afraid. When I got to the police station, that is when I was free to tell the story."

The trial continues on Tuesday.

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