Johannesburg - “Sometimes I heard crying and screaming, and ‘let me out’, ‘let me out’.”
This was what a tenant on the property belonging to a 36-year-old Springs man – arrested on Friday for allegedly torturing his wife and five children, locking them up in their home for years and possibly raping his teenage daughter – said outside the house.
It is alleged the children were subjected to punishments, such as shocks with electric wires and burns by a blowtorch, which were found in the house.
The case came to the police’s attention when the man’s 11-year-old son raised the alarm last week after running away from home. The man’s wife is believed to have broken down and told police of the horrors that took place inside her home.
But the tenant, who asked not to be identified, said that, in her two months living there, she had witnessed only a snapshot of the horror the family experienced.
She said that, on one occasion, one of the young children came to her, the young girl begging for food after not being fed for days. She said she’d only rarely interacted with the 11-year-old boy, but that he was a “sweet child”.
She noted that the man’s wife seemed to be in a perpetual daze.
But because she had never seen bruises on the children, the tenant – and the 20 or so other people living on the property – never contacted the police.
The Star has discovered that the house is owned by a holding company, Nieat Investments, which allowed the man to rent out the property for them.
According to a member of the corporation, Rishad Abdoola, the man was only supposed to rent out the home to allow 10 people to live on the property.
Abdoola said he was shocked to hear about what had allegedly happened in the home, and was set to investigate and find out whether the man had been skimming rent money by leasing out other parts of the property.
He said he had met with the man a few times for only minutes at a time, and had no idea about the horrors allegedly taking place in the home until the story became public.
But despite reports suggesting the man had kept his wife and children hostage for years, Abdoola said the man had been living on the property for only about a year.
On Wednesday morning, the man appeared at the Springs Magistrate’s Court on child abuse and assault charges, but it was indicated to the court that other charges would be added.
The man stared blankly ahead of him, showing no emotion, as he faced charges related to accusations that he kept his wife and five children, aged between 2 and 16, captive.
The man’s defence lawyer, Pieter Pretorius, argued it was unfair for his client to be kept in custody until at least Wednesday, which is his next court appearance.
Pretorius also accused the police of failing to properly start their investigation.
Outside court, a distraught-looking woman, believed to be the man’s aunt, refused to speak to the media about the case.
Also outside the court building were members of a number of motorcycle clubs who held cardboard signs reading “monster” and “stop child abuse”.