The entrance to Parktown Boys’ High School in Johannesburg. Picture: Bongiwe Mchunu

The Parktown Boys’ High molester had no reason to lie. Collan Rex had already confessed to 144 incidents of sexual assault, admitted to choking and wrestling with his pupils and had owned up to his actions. 

This was the opinion of Acting Judge Peet Johnson, who yesterday at the High Court sitting in Palm Ridge acquitted Rex on 177 other charges. 

While most of the 23 complainants told the court similar stories of how Rex would grab their genitals, dry hump them, place them in chokeholds during unofficial wrestling matches and try to dominate them physically, the Judge believed at least 10 of the pupils had provided weak testimony or fabricated oral evidence. 

Among these pupils was the then 15-year-old who claimed Rex had tried to put his finger into his anus on multiple occasions, and succeeded during one attempt, resulting in the single rape charge against Rex. 

Judge Johnson believed that because the pupil had used the word “bum” instead of “anus” in his police statement, this was clearly a contradiction in his testimony. The idea that Rex’s finger had managed to penetrate the pupil’s underwear and shorts was also an indication that the version of events was untrue. 

Another boy, who claimed Rex had forced oral sex on him, had his testimony all but thrown out because he failed to testify about another incident where he claimed Rex had allegedly hit him with a broom handle, and another where the coach had allegedly showed him pornography. 

During this part of the Judge’s ruling, the mother of the child left the court, teary-eyed.
The Judge was particularly harsh on the fact that pupils could not remember the exact number of times Rex had grabbed their genitals or tried to choke them, as some had been asked to estimate the number of incidents and had contradicted the numbers mentioned in each of their police statements. 

Prosecutor Arveena Persad insisted during her closing arguments that the sheer number of attacks meant it was nearly impossible for each of the teenage complainants to remember the specifics of every incident - which allegedly occurred on a weekly basis.

Because of this, the Judge ultimately dropped all but 12 of the charges that Rex had not already admitted to.
The 22-year-old former coach had been charged with 110 counts of attempted murder, stemming from dozens of incidents of “wrestling” where the pupils would be caught in chokeholds, unable to breathe. 

The judge found there had been no intent to kill, and instead found Rex guilty of 12 counts of common assault.
Because Rex had already admitted to the first 144 charges of sexual assault, the Judge said he had no reason to lie, and therefore he had no option but to give the benefit of the doubt to the accused. 

Parents of the complainants, even those whose testimony was found to be credible, told the Saturday Star they were put off by the ruling.
“I’m disappointed with how it was handled. Throughout the trial, the judge was rushing. He gave his ruling half-an-hour after closing arguments. How did he make an informed decision? He had obviously already made his decision,” one parent said.

“It felt disrespectful. He painted all the boys with the same brush.”
Gauteng Education MEC Panyaza Lesufi said he had mixed emotions about the ruling - glad that a guilty verdict had been reached on so many charges, but saddened that the pupils had to go through a difficult trial process.
The sentencing proceedings for the 156 charges will continue next week.

The Saturday Star