Clutching stuffed toys and speaking in soft voices, three young girls have told the Durban Regional Court how their swimming coach touched them on their private parts during lessons three years ago.
Former Umbilo swimming coach Aubrey Maclou, 60, pleaded not guilty before magistrate Delia Turner yesterday to three counts of rape.
He has been charged with rape because, according to the new Sexual Offences Act, any sexual penetration is deemed to be rape.
The State alleges that the incidents took place at a home in 2007 and 2008. Maclou had hired a swimming pool for his lessons.
The trial is being held in camera and the children are testifying through a video link-up with another room in the court building.
In 2008, six cases of sexual assault of children were opened against Maclou, but he was not arrested.
The parents said at the time that they had become suspicious as their children began to emulate adult sexual behaviour.
The latest charges came after the parents approached an investigative services company, The Guardian.
Director Marc Hardwick investigated and gathered evidence, which led to Maclou’s arrest in March 2010.
Yesterday, one of the girls testified against Maclou.
She said he had touched her after he had told her to take off her swimming costume. She said that he touched her more than once, but she could not remember how many times.
However, under cross-examination by Maclou’s advocate, Paul Jorgensen, the young girl, who was emotional during her testimony, began to cry and said the incident had “just been a dream”.
The other two girls, who are now six years old, were adamant during their testimony that Maclou had touched their private parts.
One of them testified that Maclou had taken her into the home where they had the swimming lessons, and told her to undress.
“We went inside and we took off our costumes because Aubrey (Maclou) told us to and we then wrapped ourselves in our towels.
“He told us to lie on our towels and then he touched us,” she told the court.
The same witness said that on another occasion, she had seen Maclou touch one of her friends in the swimming pool.
“We were having swimming lessons, Aubrey (Maclou) decided to touch my friend underneath her costume and then I hit him in the face.”
A parent of one of the children who, to protect the child’s identity may not be named, testified that she had filed a complaint against Maclou after she saw her daughter performing sexually suggestive acts in 2008.
The woman said the complaint was lodged at the Umbilo police station, but she had been given only a case number and no one had taken a police statement from her. She said Hardwick was then hired to take over the case and investigate.
The parent said that during an interview with Hardwick, her daughter had said “Uncle Aubrey” had touched her private parts.
Jorgensen asked the mother if she had told her daughter what to say in court.
The woman said she had not and that she had told her daughter only to tell the truth.
The trial continues today. Maclou is out on bail.