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Pretoria - A “Brandy and Coke” weekend and a “hide and seek” game which went horribly wrong with a man being accused of raping the 14-year-old mentally disabled daughter of his sister resulted in a damages claim against the minister of police.

The man, who cannot be identified, to protect the child, had to spend 33 days in a police cell before charges against him were withdrawn. This was done as the DNA results proved to be inconclusive.

The Mokopane man told the Pretoria High Court the police had no right to arrest and detain him for “flimsy reasons”.

But Judge Neil Tuchten turned down the damages claim and found there was sufficient suspicion at the time of arrest to believe the man had raped the girl. The fact that the police’s suspicion did not translate into a conviction was not relevant.

The rape was alleged to have taken place on March 22, 2008. The man and his wife travelled to the home of the girl’s parents to spend the weekend, which included “social drinking and braaing”. The visit included drinking brandy and coke, the judge said.

There were various children present, including the alleged victim, only identified as MS in the judgment.

After some hours and a few brandies later, the man decided to play hide and seek with the children. He explained that he did so as to help MS to take part as she was not mentally able to do so without assistance.

At one stage he took her to an outside toilet where she was supposed to wait until the other children hid themselves.

When she and the man had been in the room for some time, her 12-year-old brother knocked on the locked door to hear what was going on. He said he heard the man telling his sister to put her hands on the toilet. The boy tried to open the door and then knocked.

The man opened the door and his sister came out. When he asked her what had happened, she said “nothing but girls’ stuff”. The boy said there was a suspicious substance on the floor.

Judge Tuchten remarked that this would have aroused suspicion, as MS had been with an adult male.

The man then returned to the other adults and continued to party, until they went to bed.

Judge Tuchten said: “Matters thereafter took a dark turn.”

The boy told his mother what he had seen and she confronted her daughter, who refused to tell her anything except that the man ordered her to take off her underwear. The mother confronted the man, who denied the allegations. A row erupted and the man and his family left.

The mother took her daughter to a doctor, who confirmed that the child’s private parts were bruised.

She laid a charge of rape against the man, who was arrested and kept in custody for 33 days - apparently in appalling conditions - until the charges were dropped.

The mother said in a statement that her son told her the man remained with MS in the locked toilet for about 30 minutes.

“This, in the context of this game, would have been perceived by any adult who knows the game as an inappropriately lengthy period,” the judge said. The fact that the door was locked would arouse even more suspicion.

Judge Tuchten, in finding the police had reasonable grounds to suspect the man of rape, said it was, however, distressing that he was locked up in appalling and dirty conditions. He remarked that these conditions were “distressingly prevalent” in the holding cells in police stations in this division.

Pretoria News