Cape Town - A man who stole R50 000 from a woman he met online and was later accused of sexually assaulting her has been acquitted of rape.
Michael Jantjies turned to the Supreme Court of Appeal (SCA) after he was convicted on three counts of rape alleged to have taken place at the St Helena Bay Hotel in March 2015.
He argued that the rape accusation was fabricated after he stole the money from the 48-year-old teacher and ended their relationship.
The pair met via an online dating site in August 2014, and spent weekends at hotels along the West Coast.
The woman reported on September 19, 2015, that Jantjies had raped her at the hotel on March 7, 2015 – an allegation Jantjies denied, saying he was never at the hotel that weekend.
On March 9, 2015, after the alleged hotel stay, Jantjies went to her house to inform her of a housing opportunity available for her children following an alleged cancellation on the council’s waiting list.
He asked her for R50 000 to cover the deposit and transfer costs. The woman secured loans and drove Jantjies to town to facilitate the payment.
However, after exiting the car with the cash, Jantjies disappeared and never returned.
During trial proceedings, it was the woman’s word against Jantjies’s, with the SCA expressing concern over the “poor quality” of the investigation and evidence presented.
It noted that the Western Cape High Court was satisfied that the woman’s account of the events were consistent, but also that the court neglected to evaluate Jantjies’s evidence that the woman had a motive to falsely accuse him of the alleged rape.
While the woman reported the alleged rape after Jantjies stole the money from her, SCA Judge Keoagile Matojane said there was no guideline governing the behaviour of sexual assault victims, and a court may not draw inference only from the length of any delay between the alleged offence and it being reported.
This, while Judge Matojane found that the State failed to prove Jantjies’s guilt beyond a reasonable doubt, finding the State did not provide evidence to support the claim that Jantjies was at the hotel, neither was the doctor who examined the woman called to testify.
“When the evidence is weighed in its totality, it supports the conclusion that the appellant’s (Jantjies) version of events could reasonably possibly be true and that the evidence of the complainant, when viewed with the appropriate caution called for, raises doubt about the appellant’s guilt. Accordingly, the State has failed to prove the appellant’s guilt beyond reasonable.
“The court must express its concern about the poor quality of the investigation and evidence presented. This impacts the administration of justice and the public confidence in the legal system. Crucial steps, such as interviewing potential witnesses at the crime scene and scrutinising the appellant’s alibi, were apparently neglected,” Judge Matojane’s judgment read.