Johannesburg - The Springs man who allegedly held his family hostage for years has appeared in court.
Dressed in a blue jacket and sporting closely cropped hair, the man - who was arrested on Friday - 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 in their upmarket house for years.
It was his bruised and battered 11-year-old son who raised the alarm last week, leading to the 36-year-old man’s arrest.
On Wednesday morning the court heard that
the man’s traumatised wife and children needed to see a social worker for counselling immediately.
The medical investigation into the rape allegations is also nearly complete, and more charges – aside from child abuse and assault – are expected to follow.
The man’s defence lawyer, Pieter Pretorius, argued that it was extremely unfair for his client to be kept in custody until at least next 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 present outside the court building were members of a number of motorcycle clubs who held cardboard signs reading “monster” and “stop child abuse”.
Founder of the Wild Wild Angels, Henry Harber, said that his club had been informed of the boy’s disappearance from his home, but later realised there was something suspicious about the boy’s home life.
He said his biker’s club helped police locate the boy and wanted to see the court proceedings for more information.
According to the bikers, three cases of child abuse were set to proceed at the Springs court on Wednesday morning, including the horror house case, an 11-year-old girl who had been raped, and the murder of a 2-year-old girl who had allegedly been killed by a relative.
Earlier, it emerged that in the horror house case the boy fled the house, running to neighbours for help. The story he told was harrowing – the man would not allow them to leave the house, and he sexually molested and tortured them. Rape allegations are also being investigated.
The man, a successful businessman, allegedly kept all five children out of school and the neighbours were not aware of their existence.
When the boy got to his neighbours, they called his father. Apparently they were concerned about the child’s well-being because he was bruised and bleeding. The boy’s father then took him home, allegedly tried to drown him in their swimming pool, wrapped him, still alive, in a blanket and hid him in the ceiling, fearing neighbours would alert the police, which they did.
Police searched the house thoroughly after the father told them the child had run away again.
The investigating officer, Warrant Officer Rudi Jansen, told The Star on Wednesday morning that the boy, hidden in the ceiling, heard the police searching for him.
“The father pretended to be concerned about his missing son, but police were suspicious and searched the house but didn’t find him because he was in the ceiling,” he said.
The police, Community Police Forum and the Pink Ladies, an organisation which helps locate missing people, started an extensive search for the child.
In the meantime, the father took the child to relatives in Warden, in the Free State, to hide him. The relatives were told that the boy’s eldest sister had beaten him up.
Pressure on the mother eventually led her to confess the boy’s whereabouts and the police went to fetch him.
The mother told the police the family had been kept captive for years. She said the day the father fetched the boy from the neighbours, he beat, kicked and trampled him before trying to drown him.
It is alleged that the children were shocked with electric wires and burnt with a blow torch, both of which were found in the house.
Pornographic DVDs were also found in the house, which was described by the police as filthy but full of expensive furniture. The children were allegedly forced to sleep in one filthy bed.
Police were told the 11-year-old was often made to stand naked outside as punishment.
The investigating officer said the boy had never been to school. His 16-year-old sister had attended school at some stage, but had been taken out.
The other siblings are under the age of 5.
The wife said she was also often assaulted by her husband.
The five children were taken to a place of safety and the mother is with family members.