Uproar over criminal doctor's return to SA

Time of article published Jul 22, 2004

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By Zoubair Ayoob

The return to South Africa of convicted rapist John Schneeberger has been decried by women's interest groups, which have renewed calls for the compilation of a sex offenders' register.

"It is incredibly sad that he was allowed to return," said Carrie Shelver, the manager of Training and Public Awareness at People Opposed to Women Abuse.

Shelver said it was not known if Schneeberger had undergone rehabilitation in Canada. In her view rehabilitation was not guaranteed to work.

Schneeberger was born in Zambia, but he matriculated at Kearsney College and later qualified as a doctor at Stellenbosch University. He emigrated to Canada but retained permanent South African residency.

He was convicted and sentenced to six years in jail for the rape of Candice Foley and two sexual assaults on another woman.

Before raping Foley, he allegedly injected her with Versed, a powerful anaesthetic which causes amnesia.

Schneeberger reportedly dodged police for eight years by submitting another man's blood for DNA testing. Each time investigators asked for samples, Schneeberger insisted the blood be drawn from his arm, where he would have a vial of someone else's blood.

Foley hired a private investigator who broke into Schneeberger's car and took a hair sample which linked him to the rape.

Forensic experts then took samples from his fingers, hair and the inside his mouth, which laid the basis for the trial.

Schneeberger's Canadian citizenship was withdrawn because he did not declare the criminal charges pending against him at his swearing-in ceremony. He was deported after serving two-thirds of his sentence.

Schneeberger arrived in Johannesburg on Wednesday, accompanied by two Royal Canadian Mounted Police officers.

Timmy Singh of Action Against Abuse said the Canadian sentence had been too lenient.

"South Africa is more forward-thinking, and a much heavier sentence would have been imposed here," she said.

Singh said Schneeberger's name should be included in any future sex offenders' register, and he should be forced to declare his conviction to any future employer.

Amanda Trotter, the director of Feminist Media Projects at Agenda, said Schneeberger should never be allowed to practise medicine again.

Schneeberger was registered as a medical practitioner with the South African Health Professions Council in the 1980s, but his registration lapsed in 1991 because of non-payment of fees.

Council spokesperson Anina Steele said Schneeberger would have to reregister before practising in South Africa. His conduct would, however, first be investigated and a rape conviction would count against him.

A former friend of Schneeberger remembered the doctor as a charming, sophisticated man who was popular with women.

"His female patients harassed him to the extent that they pretended to be sick just to see him," said the man, who asked to remain anonymous.

"There was never a hint of anything untoward. I just feel sorry for his victims. As much as we were friends, I can't deny what he did," said the friend.

The man added that wine was Schneeberger's passion.

Schneeberger had become a member of the Durban Wine Academy, affiliated to the Cape Wine Academy, and was accredited to run courses in Durban.

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