Tebogo Teteme was convicted of sexual assault after he was linked to the crime nearly 16 years later.
Kimberley - A man who sexually assaulted a small child 16 years ago was finally sentenced on Monday after his DNA, which was taken when he was arrested on a drug charge, was linked to the sex case.

Tebogo Teteme, 40, from Kimberley, was sentenced in the Kimberley Regional Court to three years imprisonment, of which two years were suspended for four years.

In January 2010 Teteme was arrested, convicted and fined for being in possession of dagga. His DNA, which was taken at the time of the drug arrest, positively linked him to the sexual assault case involving a one-year-old child.

Over the years police had tried to track down the suspect involved in the sexual assault case, but they could not identify him.

According to the State prosecutor, advocate Cornelia Deetlefs, the sexual assault occurred on the night of November 4 and in the early hours of November 5 2001 - more than 16 years ago.

Deetlefs said that the mother of the child, her teenage cousin and their father were asleep in the garage, which they had converted into a room, when they saw a man bending over the child.

The child was also asleep at that time and, while the mother struggled to wake up and switch on the light, the man ran out of the room. They noticed the suspect’s semen on the child’s private parts as well as the bedding.

The family alerted the police, who took DNA samples from the evidence left behind as well as from a number of people they considered to be suspects at the time, including the grandfather of the child.

The accused was never tested at the time of the incident and the mother indicated that she did not know him.

Magistrate Veliswa Setyata said the State had to rely on circumstantial evidence as witnesses at the time did not know the identity of the accused.

“The results from the forensic analyst served as prima facie proof that the semen found on the child belonged to the accused. The accused also did not deny that the semen belonged to him,” said Setyata.

She added that she could not find the accused’s version of events presented to the court to be reasonably true.

“According to the accused, the mother of the child tried to frame him by spreading the semen on the child.

“The accused said that he was at the garage during the day but had sexual intercourse outside the garage with the mother. He said they used a condom, which the mother took. He also said that he did not know why the mother had tried to pin the crime on him.”

However, the mother and her cousin, who was also in the same room that night, denied that the mother had a relationship with the accused, Setyata said.

“The mother said she did not know the accused or who was responsible for the act. The version that the accused was unknown to the witnesses is true as they did not know who the suspect was and this was also the reason why the case took so many years to solve.”

Setyata said the accused had violated the privacy of the child.

“The baby girl was sleeping in the comfort of her home and in the security of her mother. The accused is fortunate that the State did not charge him with housebreaking with the intent to commit a crime as he broke into the house while the people were asleep.

“The accused chose the most vulnerable person in the room and ejaculated on her. This was a disgusting act, where the accused showed disrespect for the privacy of the child. Even though the child did not sustain any injuries, the act was a gross violation of the young body of the child,” said Setyata.

According to the magistrate, the incident had a traumatic impact on the mother of the child.

“The incident imposed a sense of shock on the mother as she realised that a man had come into her home and ejaculated on her baby, who was just more than a year old at the time, while she was sleeping right next to her,” she said.

A request by Teteme’s lawyer that the court should impose a sentence of correctional supervision was dismissed by Setyata, who added that the community looked to the courts to protect the vulnerable members of society.

“I did take the personal circumstances of the accused into account and the fact that he was previously convicted of petty crimes. However, he had been avoiding the law for all these past years. The offence is of a serious nature and young children need protection from the courts to ensure that nobody takes advantage of their vulnerability.

“Communities also demand that offences of this nature are punished severely. If light sentences are imposed, communities will lose faith in the justice system,” Setyata concluded.

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