The criminal trial of the Parktown Boys' High alleged molester has painted a portrait of a young man with no concept of sexual or physical boundaries with his pupils.
And as seven of his 23 alleged victims took to the stand at the High Court this week to testify, the school itself has been described as an environment that prevented the victims from speaking out about the coach’s alleged behaviour.
Collan Rex faces 327 charges of sexual assault, rape, attempted murder, assault and sexual grooming, after allegedly abusing more than 23 pupils at the school during his tenure as an assistant waterpolo coach and boarding house master between 2015 and 2016.
Rex has already effectively pleaded guilty to 144 of the sexual assault charges against him, stemming from incidents where he would grab his 13- to 16-year-old pupils’ genitals and “dry hump” them.
His criminal trial began this week, with details on his bizarre abuse laid bare to the High Court sitting at Palm Ridge.
The 94 attempted murder charges are based around Rex’s choking of the boys during what he described through his lawyer as “playful wrestling”.
The majority of the pupils testifying this week expressed their concern when he would place them in headlocks, with some of the pupils passing out before they could fight him off.
Rex’s legal aid lawyer, advocate William Robertse, has argued that Rex had no intent to kill his pupils, and has insisted that the wrestling between pupils - and even with him - was considered normal in the boarding house and on the waterpolo team.
It was a sentiment that was seemingly shared by the pupils, many of whom claimed that the normalisation of wrestling with their teacher was effective, and yet when they realised it was inappropriate, or too aggressive, they were too scared to come forward.
While several of the pupils expressed that the school environment discouraged boys from being “snitches”, it was a 17-year-old boy who said that three teachers had threatened him from coming forward about Rex’s abuse.
While the boy did not name the teachers on the stand, he insisted that this behaviour from the teachers almost prevented him from making a police statement against his coach.
Rex’s alleged fixation with genital grabbing was a common theme among the pupils’ testimony, with many detailing how he would try to twist their nipples or grab their testicles and not let go unless they “whistled”.
While the majority of the charges against Rex are sexual assault, the one pupil accusing Rex of rape testified that he was penetrated by Rex’s fingers while on a bus trip from Pretoria.
In front of the other boys, the coach used his fingers to push through the pupils’ pants during a brawl on the bus, with one of his fingers slipping into his anus. The same pupil said he had also been harassed during waterpolo practices, and that Rex would tell them he was trying to “toughen them up” by grabbing their genitals and choking them with his headlocks.
Robertse was insistent that the boy had not been penetrated as he had been wearing pants.
“It did happen. I know what happened to me,” said the pupil.
The trial continues this week.
The Saturday Star