Port Elizabeth - A 23-year-old man was acquitted on a charge of rape, but convicted of sexually assaulting his aunt two years ago, the Port Elizabeth High Court ruled on Monday. 

The state alleged that in July 2015 Chandre Witbooi slept over at his 56-year-old aunt's house in Missionvale where he raped and suffocated her to death with a pillow. 

The woman was found by her sister the next day with her pants pulled down. 

The 56-year-old woman's boyfriend had earlier told the court that when he had picked her up to put her into bed, she was fully clothed. A charge of murder was subsequently withdrawn against Witbooi after it could not be established whether the woman died from natural causes. 

The court earlier heard that ten days before the woman's death she had suffered from a heart attack.  Judge Irma Schoeman said that even though a medical report showed bruising on the woman's neck consistent with suffocation, it did not assist the state as a witness had retracted seeing Witbooi holding down the woman with a pillow.  

In Witbooi's testimony he claimed that his 56-year-old aunt had fondled him causing him to ejaculate. Schoeman said Witbooi was not a good witness and had adapted his version as evidence against him mounted. 

However, she found that sexual penetration was not proved. "I am of the opinion that it cannot be found beyond a reasonable doubt that the accused raped the deceased or attempted to rape [her].

"The accused testified that he rubbed himself against the deceased and that caused him to ejaculate. This would be a sexual violation [because] consent must be voluntary," said Schoeman. 

Schoeman said that the woman's further intake of alcohol must have had a debilitating effect on her judgment. The case was postponed until November 23 for sentencing proceedings. 

Witbooi's bail was extended. 

African News Agency