Durban - Twenty-two years after he indecently assaulted his stepdaughters, convicted child molester Larry du Plessis Zweigerlaar claimed he was sorry and offered an apology to them in the Scottburgh High Court on Monday.
But his apology was cold comfort for Candice Bowman, who was present in court and who will testify on Tuesday about the devastating effect the abuse had on her life.
Bowman’s sister, Jackie Toms, who was also abused, was not at the sentencing proceedings on Monday.
Zweigerlaar was found guilty of indecently assaulting the sisters and of raping Bowman in 1998 and allowing children access to pornographic material. He pleaded guilty to all the counts except rape and one charge of indecent assault.
He was married to the sisters’ mother from 1991 to 2000, when they divorced. The abuse started when Bowman and Toms were seven and eight respectively and went on for nine years.
He was arrested in 2010 when he returned from the UK after the sisters decided to break their silence and report the abuse to the police.
The women testified that it took a long time for them to come forward because they were afraid the case would break up their family. Their first reports about the abuse years earlier were not believed.
Testifying in mitigation of sentence, Zweigerlaar claimed he was extremely remorseful.
“To both Jackie and Candice, if my conviction and whatever sentence I am given helps them on the road to recovery then it is worth it. I apologise, I should not have done that. I do not know what came over me.”
However, shortly after making the apology, Zweigerlaar said he was not admitting he was guilty of rape or to another count of indecent assault.
“I only admitted guilt to those incidents that I did. I cannot in good conscience admit to the others even though the court has convicted me of them.
“I am prepared to serve my sentence and I am sorry for the crimes I know I committed.”
State advocate Melanie Naicker told Zweigerlaar he was displaying “fake remorse” and had to be sentenced to a long term of imprisonment.
“You still do not fully admit all your actions and the damage you caused to these women will stay with them for their rest of their lives,” she said.
Probation officer Zwelabantu Ngwane testified that Zweigerlaar had to be sent to jail.
“A prison term is unavoidable because of the seriousness of the offence. The family has been torn apart by the actions of the accused.”
Correctional Services officer Adrian Moodley testified that Zweigerlaar was a suitable candidate for correctional supervision, which did not include a prison term.
But he said: “I am not here to make a decision for the court. He (Zweigerlaar) fits the physical criteria required for the correctional supervision programme as he can be supervised and monitored.
“But it is up to the court to decide what sentence he should serve.”
Sentencing proceedings continue on Tuesday.