Johannesburg - The sex worker accused of stabbing US consulate worker Christopher “Norman” Bates to death because he refused to pay her has been acquitted.
Gasping for breath, Lorraine Mogapi grabbed her lawyer, pulling him into a tight embrace as her tears began to flow. The grey hooded jacket she had been using to cover her face from the lens of a nearby camera was lifted the moment she heard her “not guilty” verdict.
At first, she grimaced for a moment, and was then unable to stop from crying as she heard Judge Leonie Windell declare on Friday: “The State did not succeed in proving the guilt of Ms Mogapi.”
And by the time she walked out of the Palm Ridge Magistrate’s Court a free woman, her smile could no longer be hidden.
In her judgment, Judge Windell had put Mogapi’s story as the most likely sequence of events on that January 2013 night when Bates was found fatally stabbed in the driveway of his Illovo, Joburg, housing complex.
Bates and Mogapi had come to an arrangement that night. He had agreed to purchase the sex worker’s services for R200 and had driven her to his home in Illovo Gardens.
Afterwards, an argument erupted about payment. According to Mogapi’s testimony, he had said “she wasn’t worth it”, called her a “bitch” and refused to pay.
The argument escalated, and Bates went to the kitchen of his home and grabbed a knife.
Using her pepper spray, Mogapi blinded Bates, who rushed back to the kitchen to wash his face. In the confusion, she grabbed the knife, fleeing from the flat.
Mogapi claimed she was running towards the security guard at the complex’s entrance to get help and show him the weapon she had been threatened with.
Bates, who continued chasing her, retrieved a baseball bat from the back of his car and was pursuing her, allegedly shouting “I will kill you, bitch” as he chased her.
When he caught up, Mogapi stabbed him in the chest, damaging his aorta, which led to his death.
Judge Windell said some of the tenants at the complex had corroborated certain aspects of Mogapi’s story, but had also added further details to the sequence of events.
One witness had seen the pair come out of Bates’s flat, arguing loudly.
At one point, Mogapi had said: “You are calling me a bitch, I’ll show you.”
Another had seen Mogapi standing over Bates’s body after the stabbing, slapping him and saying: “He’s not dead, he’s not dead.”
But because none of the witnesses had seen the moment of the murder, Judge Windell said only Mogapi knew exactly what had happened.
Mogapi claimed that she hadn’t wanted to kill Bates, but just scare him off. She hadn’t aimed the knife at his heart.
Judge Windell said common cause indicated that Bates had retrieved the bat from his car, as the car door was found open and he was spotted originally leaving the flat with nothing in his hands.
But even without all the details of what had happened, the judge said the State had failed to prove Mogapi’s version of events false.
She said that in a self-defence plea, the onus was on the State to prove beyond a reasonable doubt that even an improbable version of events was false.