Pretoria - The 15-year-old who allegedly raped and killed a seven-year-old girl in Atteridgeville last week may have been sexually abused or bullied earlier in his life.

This is according to experts who also pointed a finger at the environment in which the suspect might have grown up to understand his circumstances and why he might have committed the crimes.

Buhle “Paki” Sibeko, who was buried on Friday, was allegedly killed by the 15-year-old who appeared in court on the same day the girl was laid to rest.

The experts said the matter would have to be dealt with in court, but they based their opinions on research they had conducted on children and sexual abuse.

Professor Christiaan Bezuidenhout, a University of Pretoria criminology expert, said the nature of the relationship between Buhle and the suspect was the key. He cited South Africa’s increasing culture of sexual abuse, especially among children, as worrying. He said courts were brimming with cases of sexual abuse between children, but said this case of children raping and later killing was unique.

“Sexual abuse among children is not unique any more, but what is unique is the killing. Killing the victim is not rife; why did he kill? Maybe he got scared and realised what he did was wrong,” he said.

Bezuidenhout said the aggressor might have realised after raping Buhle that what he did was wrong. He calls this stage the “status quo” or “returning to normality”.

He said this realisation that the child would expose him might have caused him to panic, and this might have led to his killing the child.

“He probably had the idea of sex, but never to kill. He is 15 and at the prime of his adolescence,” he said.

Bezuidenhout said the sexual imagination might have been from learned behaviour, either from TV, a sister, a brother, or parents. He said it was likely that someone might have been sexually assaulted, which led to the cycle of abuse carrying on.

Silas Makhubela, an expert in clinical psychology at Tuks, said the environment in which the suspect grew up might have led to daily stresses that might have caused his temperament.

He said the fact that the suspect was 15 and that he had killed was “extreme” for someone of his age.

He suggested that the suspect might be a conduct disorder child, which suggested that he might be mentally ill. “There may be a history of misconduct; he may have grown up in an aggressive environment, either at school or among peers,” he said.

Makhubela added that the suspect might have been bullied or might have bullied other children, which might suggest he did not know how to deal with other people. He also said the institution of family was hostile in society.

“I can imagine, as he is from Atteridgeville, that he is from a very violent environment. People [including children] desensitised to violence - if it is [for example] a case of he witnessing his mother being beaten by his father, and the next morning carrying on as if nothing happened, the child internalises that,” he said.

He said the fact that he was part of the team searching for Buhle in the immediate aftermath might suggest he had little remorse or empathy. Makhubela said his opinion was based on previous research and the current reports of the case.

Dr Benita Moolman, a gender-based violence expert from the HSRC, said the suspect’s background was the key in understanding him and the crimes committed.

“Young men rape for multiple reasons. Rape is about power, and the need to prove a certain form of ‘dominant’ masculinity. Rape is also a premeditated crime that occurs when conditions have been set by the rapist, so that he can get away with the crime, which is probably why the suspect murdered the victim,” she said.

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