Cape Town - The net is closing on the gang responsible for the brutal gang-rape, mutilation and murder of Bredasdorp teenager Anene Booysen, with a third arrest on Friday and a top police source predicting further arrests.
As the attack sparked increasing outrage, even drawing major international TV news stations such as the BBC and CNN to Bredasdorp on Friday, a relative of the first accused, Jonathan Davids, 23, has revealed that he and the dead teenager had been friends for years.
Davids’s aunt Amelia Claasen said the attack “just makes no sense”, but Bredasdorp police commander Lieutenant Colonel Maree Louw revealed that Davids had been arrested in 2011 in connection with a previous assault charge. The charge was withdrawn last year.
In addition, Louw said one of the other two suspects, 21 and 22, who can be named only once they appear in court, had also had run-ins with the law over drug-related charges.
Anene, 17, is to be buried in the town on Saturday, a day after about 1 000 men, women and children filled the streets of the Overberg town, demanding strong action against violent crime.
Anene was left for dead at a housing construction site near her home in the early hours of last Saturday.
She had been at a local sports bar and pub just a few hundred metres from her home.
The march culminated in a wreath-laying ceremony at the spot where her body was found.
On Friday the girl’s heartbroken mother Corlia Olivier said she could still hear her daughter’s footsteps in the house.
“It’s like she is still here with me,” she said.
But the family of the first accused say while they’re shocked at the incident, they cannot believe Davids is responsible, and think the police have the wrong man.
His aunt, Claasen, said outside the Bredasdorp Magistrate’s Court that her nephew knew Anene well.
His aunt suggested another local man, with the same nickname Zwaai, may in fact be responsible for the attack on the girl.
“All we know is that she said his name and the police came and took him,” Claasen said.
Her story that her nephew left the pub in the early hours of that morning with the owner of the house where he was staying was repeated by the homeowner.
The homeowner did not want to be named, but said he had taken Davids in last December.
The homeowner described Davids as an “upstanding, quiet young man who needed a job and a place to stay”.
He told Weekend Argus that he and Davids walked home together that night.
“The last I saw, he went to his room and I went into mine. The next day police were banging on my door,” he said.
The man has been questioned by police and had his cellphone confiscated “This is not easy for me. I’ve never been in trouble with the police, but my good deed of taking this young man into my home has now led to me being drawn into the mix,” he said, adding that although he did not know exactly what happened that night, he had not noticed any blood on Davids the next day.
“I still cannot believe that this quiet young man was involved in this terrible crime.”
Anene’s death has provoked outrage across the spectrum, with President Jacob Zuma on Thursday describing the crime as “shocking”, “cruel” and “inhumane”.
UN human rights chief Navi Pillay also expressed shock on Friday. “The entrenched culture of sexual violence which prevails in South Africa must end,” she said.
The department of Women, Children and People with Disabilities urged the courts to let the culprits “rot in jail”.
“The high levels of women and children abuse in our country is a matter of grave concern, and a painful reminder of the disregard for human life and human dignity,” it said.
Cosatu announced that it planned to deliver a memorandum to the Bredasdorp police station after Booysen’s memorial service on Sunday.
Cosatu provincial secretary Tony Ehrenreich said they would also picket outside the magistrate’s court on Tuesday to support Booysen’s family and “display our disgust at this cowardly act”.
The Young Communist League of SA described the crimes as “stomach churning”.
“We call… for a police officer in every police station nationwide to receive extra training around rape and sexual violence,” spokesman Khaya Xaba said.
Anene’s devastated brother Ryno Booysen 22, told Weekend Argus on Friday he could not believe the news.
“The last time I saw her was over the holidays. This is a very bad thing. Nobody should die like this,” the tearful youngster said, adding of the first accused, “We were like brothers. We grew up together.”
Anene’s close friend, Alfonso Windvogel, 25, said he last saw her last Friday evening when she nagged him to go out with her.
The other two accused are to appear in court on Monday, police spokesman Captain Frederick van Wyk confirmed.