An SAA plane at OR Tambo in Kepmton Park Gauteng. Photo: Leon Nicholas

Pietermaritzburg -

The Indian national accused of indecently fondling a Pietermaritzburg woman on an SAA flight to South Africa last week has been released - and the alleged victim had no idea.

The 33-year-old man, who was arrested after running the Comrades Marathon on Sunday, was due to appear in court this week, but didn’t make an appearance owing to an incomplete docket.

His whereabouts were not known by either the SAPS or the National Prosecuting Authority. It was assumed he had returned to India.

However, the uncle of his alleged victim, who is in her twenties, said she and the family had not been informed of his release. “She definitely has not withdrawn any charges,” he said on Thursday, shocked.

Earlier this week, the woman explained how she had fallen asleep on the flight from India to South Africa.

The main lights were off in the aircraft, with only the aisle lights switched on. She claimed she awoke to the man, who was travelling to Durban for the marathon, fondling her in an “inappropriate place”.

“Even when I woke up he continued staring at me and touching me. I screamed ‘what are you doing’ and alerted staff to the incident,” she explained.

On arrival in Durban, the woman and her parents laid a charge of indecent assault against the accused. The man was arrested on Sunday evening.

However, throughout the week, mystery surrounded his whereabouts with conflicting reports from police and NPA officials.

The case docket was first transferred from the Pietermaritzburg SAPS to the OR Tambo station, and it was expected that the accused would appear in court on Tuesday. He did not.

On Wednesday, confusion continued with OR Tambo police officials eventually establishing that the docket had been transferred to the Tembisa Family Violence Child Protection and Sexual Offences (FCS) unit within the SAPS.

Assisting The Mercury with tracking the case - and the accused - SAPS spokesman Brigadier Neville Malila eventually established that the charges against him had been provisionally withdrawn.

The NPA confirmed on Thursday that the accused did not appear in court because of an incomplete docket. NPA spokesman Phindi Louw said that the SAPS needed to explain his whereabouts.

However, Malila said that once an accused was released, police had no knowledge of where they went.

The Mercury