“He’s recognised he is an addict and needs treatment,” said a source. “He’s realised that like an alcoholic he can’t suddenly stop without professional help. And he knows that it can’t be a one-off and that his therapy has to be regular.”
The source did not want to be named due to the public vitriol directed at the suspect and his attorney, Ed Morgan.
Dubbed the “porn pastor”, the 26-year-old appeared on Tuesday in the Wynberg Magistrate’s Court charged with the sexual grooming of children and failure to report sexual offences against children. Charges relating to the possession of child pornography are expected to be added.
The suspect was not asked to plead so he cannot be named. He was remanded on R1 000 bail while police complete their investigation, which could take until December.
Police sources said there was a mountain of forensic evidence and scores of witnesses. To date they have taken about 30 statements from alleged victims.
The unanswered question is why he collected so many images. “This is an odd case,” said a police source. “Investigators are still trying to determine the motive for his collection because so far there is no evidence that he shared or sold the images or that he was part of a paedophile ring.”
The suspect was arrested by members of the Family Violence, Child Protection and Sexual Offences Unit at Rondebosch Common Ground Church on September 6 following a tip-off from a church official whose 14-year-old son had allegedly been groomed.
The suspect apparently made a confession which revealed he had allegedly groomed more than 60 teenage boys over two years. In addition to a list of the alleged victims, police seized several electronic items including cellphones, a laptop, a tablet and memory cards.
According to police, the suspect created several aliases of girls on Instagram and WhatsApp to persuade his teenage congregants to send him naked photos of themselves. If they refused, he threatened to out them on social media.
Alleged victims also told police how in panic and fear they had sought the suspect’s advice, not knowing that he was behind the grooming. He allegedly told some boys to continue supplying naked photos.
A victim’s father said the man, who was a friend, claimed he was a reservist and would put a stop to the extortion via police contacts.
Police said while the suspect was not a reservist, he had accompanied reservists and community police forums on crime prevention operations.
Most of the alleged victims were Common Ground congregants but some pupils from schools in the Rondebosch area were also caught up in the pornographic web.
Although the suspect was a paid employee at Rondebosch Common Ground Church which he joined as an intern in 2014, he had been working as a youth pastor at Common Ground Constantiaberg in Orpen Road at the time of his arrest.
A UCT master’s graduate in environmental and geographical science, the suspect is also a professional sports photographer on school sports fields in Rondebosch and the beaches of Peninsula surfing spots.
On his release on bail, he moved from his rented accommodation which was almost equidistant walking distance to Bishops and Rondebosch Boys High, to another southern suburbs address. He has since moved again.