Johannesburg - When tortured and emaciated 15-year-old Raymond Buys lay dying in a Vereeniging hospital, his story captured the nation’s attention.
In 2011, he had attended a three-month course at the Echo Wild Game Rangers camp, designed to turn “boys into men”.
But after being tortured, allegedly by his fellow camp-goers at the behest of camp owner Alex de Koker, Raymond died in hospital – a shell of his former self.
Allegedly beaten with hoses, chained to his bed, burnt, starved, then forced to eat his own faeces, Raymond’s stay at the camp was the stuff of nightmares.
Raymond was one of three teenagers who died at the military-style camp.
For three years, the murder case has been slowly continuing in the Vereeniging Regional Court, and only this week did the State finally complete its evidence against De Koker and one of his disciples, Michael Erasmus.
Erasmus, who was 18 at the time of Raymond’s stay, and De Koker have been charged with murder, child abuse and assault with intent to cause grievous bodily harm.
Earlier this week, Women and Men Against Child Abuse (WMACA) released a statement detailing the testimony of the State’s forensic pathologist, Dr Bozena Krysztofiak, who told the court of Raymond’s 40 injuries.
“There was evidence of a blunt-force head injury… This leads to a vegetative state, along with bronchial pneumonia, which was the cause of death,” she said.
According to WMACA spokeswoman Tania Otto, the defence asked Krysztofiak if the wounds could have been self-inflicted, but she said that was highly unlikely.
On Thursday, De Koker took the stand to testify how Raymond had died, painting himself as a caring camp counsellor who had no idea why the young man would inflict many of his injuries on himself.
De Koker had claimed in the past to have had numerous recorded conversations with Raymond, and read transcripts to the court. In the transcripts, he asked why Raymond had hurt himself, why he refused to eat and telling the boy: “We care about you.”
However, earlier this year, De Koker’s son Anthony testified that the recordings were staged, an attempt by his father to cover up his abuse.
De Koker almost began crying on Thursday when this was put to him in court, his voice quivering when he said his son despised him.
The camp owner said he wasn’t around for any of the brutal beatings Raymond was subjected to, but upon hearing of the fights, had began recording his conversations with the 15-year-old to make a “profile” he could send to the boy’s mother.
De Koker’s cross-examination is set to start on Friday, with Erasmus also taking the stand soon.