Bloemfontein - A Bloemfontein couple that recently skipped court after being released on warning, facing several charges of child abuse, including the rape of a minor has been rearrested in Northern Pretoria. The wife, aged 37, who is the first accused in the matter and the husband, aged 45, were arrested on Tuesday after police published their names and photographs appealing for information that could lead to their arrest and allow for the resumption of their trial in the Free State High Court.
This was an unusual move as the law stipulates that in the event of a sexual offence involving a minor and the parents, the names of the latter may not be published in order to protect the identity of the child. In an interview, police spokesperson Warrant Officer Loraine Earle said the move was not an oversight of the law, but the police and the prosecution team had to consider what was in the best interest of the couple’s two children.
The couple are the biological parents of the children. “The investigating officer and the prosecutor discussed the matter before publishing the names and faces of the parents,” said Earle. The two are each facing a charge of conniving to rape, sexual exploitation of a minor, not seeking permission to perform a sexual act and child abuse.
“The couple had been on the run since the beginning of the year. They did not come to court when their trial was supposed to resume and the police had done everything they could to try and find them. The couple was of no fixed abode. They were said to be living in some parks around Pretoria and each time the police got a lead, they would find them gone, hence the public appeal,” she added.
Earle said while the publishing of the couple’s names was an unusual move, they did not expect it to compromise the children because they were expected to be moved to another area and might not live with their parents any time soon because of the gravity of the crimes they faced.
“The children are presently in a place of safety. It’s not likely that they will ever go back to the community where those crimes were committed. We understand that it’s a very difficult situation for the children, but a decision had to be made in their best interest. We want to have the case finalised. Those children also deserve a happy and normal life,” the police spokesperson explained.
The case goes back to May 2015 when police received information from a social worker about two children living with their biological parents on a plot in Bloemspruit just outside the city and were exposed to various forms of abuse. According to police records, the couple forced their then 11-year-old daughter to have sexual intercourse with about five older men who in return paid them a certain amount of money whilst the boy, then nine, was physically abused. It is not known for how long the children were exposed to the abuse.
The State further alleges that the children were forced to live under inhuman conditions. The girl was also forced to take drugs together with her nine-year-old brother and were often denied food and water. The children were kept out of school and were usually locked up under deplorable and unsanitary conditions.
None of the alleged rapists have been arrested but police indicated during the early stages of the matter that they were also trying to track them down. They said they had received very little co-operation from the mother, who is the prime suspect in the case. According to initial police reports, the mother admitted to the abuse, but has not been willing to divulge further information that could lead to the arrest of the men who allegedly raped the girl.
The couple is expected to appear in court Thursday.