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Cape Town – At what was supposed to be the start of the oldest sex abuse case to go to trial in the country, legal representatives for the defence submitted a doctor’s note stating that one of the accused could not attend proceedings at the Wynberg Magistrate’s Court yesterday.

Sisters Lisa van der Merwe and Claudine Shiels said they were allegedly sexually abused by two relatives from 1974 to 1979 at their Zeekoevlei home, which they later called a “house of horrors”.

It was after the Cabinet approved the introduction of a bill last year, aimed at amending the Criminal Procedure Act to see sexual offences prosecuted retroactively, that the sisters decided to seek justice.

“One of the accused could not be there because he has heart problems and he had to go into hospital for an angiogram,” said lawyer for the defence Leon van der Merwe.

The case was postponed until December 9, because Van der Merwe said the accused would only be available then.

Supporting the sisters, Women and Men against Child Abuse said there was a general feeling of disappointment with the postponement.

The organisation’s director, Miranda Jordan, said: “We have been working with criminal cases so we are aware delays happen.

“Speaking to the sisters, who waited a long time for this day, they said they will continue to be patient.

“Another few months won’t deter them from seeking justice for what happened to them.

“We as an organisation will stand by them, we are going to be at all court (dates) and we will not be deterred.”

The sisters have made it clear that they have never truly healed from what they experienced as little girls and said they could only start the healing process once the perpetrators took responsibility.

Shiels said: “The sexual abuse derailed me and set my life on a totally different track to my own choices and my own character.

“Sadly, throughout the decades, as my sister and I have attempted to speak about our experiences at the hands of our abusers, the crimes have either been fobbed off as nothing, laughed off, or we have been warned to keep quiet or risk being labelled troublemakers.”

The sisters said they wanted an open trial to expose the perpetrators’ lack of remorse and give strength to those in similar situations who were scared to speak out.

Cape Times