Fourteen-year wait for justice for child victim of sexual assault
Johannesburg - The adage “justice delayed is justice denied” is acquiring new meaning in an indecent sexual assault case that is still not concluded after 14 years.
The sentencing of Andrew Da Luca, which was expected to be handed down this past Thursday in the Krugersdorp Regional Court, has been postponed to May 19.
Da Luca was convicted of assaulting a child, who was aged 4 at the time of the incident, on January 29 2007.
The accused reportedly took the child into the garden with him at Touch of Africa, a guest house in Lanseria, north-west of Joburg, owned by his aunt.
Away from everyone else, he then took her into the dark car park and forced his penis into her mouth.
In his arguments for mitigation of sentence, Da Luca’s defence counsel Advocate Wagenaar SC told magistrate Keith Page that the accused “terminated the act himself” and “did not take it to its natural conclusion”.
He suffers generalised anxiety disorder and a custodial sentence would not be a befitting punishment for Da Luca, “who has suffered enough”, according to Wagenaar.
Da Luca, according to Wagenaar, suffered the folly of youth who are known to be “naturally immature”. He said his client should be sentenced as a minor as the age of majority was reduced from 21 to 18 a month before he turned 18. Da Luca is now 32.
According to prosecutor Mikki Tesson, Da Luca had not shown remorse throughout.
According to court documents, about a month after the incident, the child told her mother that Da Luca had told her to keep it a secret, having described what he had done to her.
The mother then took the child to the family doctor who then advised the victim should see a child psychologist, Dr Vilia Lyell.
Dr Lyell interviewed the child and took details of the assault and reported it to the Krugersdorp police.
The child’s aggrieved family pleaded with the Da Lucas to get professional help for Andrew, to stop him from molesting any other children, but they threatened the hapless mother and daughter, allegedly threatening to kill them both if the matter went to court.
The Krugersdorp police acted swiftly to arrest the accused.
The Teddy Bear clinic at the court was credited with doing a lot of good work to help prepare child victims for trial.
The child was assessed for this purpose when she was six.
According to a close friend of the family, Coetsee was the defendant’s lawyer.
“He cross examined the 6-year-old for three hours, causing huge distress.”
The child is now 18 and at a special-needs school in Britain, having developed dyslexia after the harrowing incident, the friend says.
The Da Luca family owns a multi-million rand elephant game lodge near Hoedspruit, where the accused works as a tour guide.
From their deep pockets, money was allegedly raised – well over R1 million – to delay the case against Da Luca.
But defence counsel advocate Wagenaar SC told the court on Thursday that Da Luca had run out of funds and he was owed well in excess of R200 000 in unpaid fees.
Among the tactics the family employed were attempts to contest the court’s written records, discredit the psychologists and expert witnesses and countless delays due to spurious health issues and constant threats to take the matter to a higher court to dispute the magistrate’s court proceedings, said a source close to the case.
The wealthy family paid thousands of rand to psychologists in attempts to prove that the accused could not molest a child, but the testimony of his own witnesses described him as narcissist with homosexual tendencies, the court heard.
The testimony required a trial-within-a trial to prove that no psychologist can rule that someone can/cannot be a child molester and took over three years to complete, the source added.
The trial has taken over 14 years of persistence by Mikki Tesson and the court.
Da Luca was found guilty of indecent assault on a minor in 2019.
* FOR THE RECORD: In a previous version of the above article, we referred to the man convicted of the crime, Andrew de Lucas as "the nephew of renowned golfing legend Gary Player".
Player has brought it to our attention that he has no relationship to or with the man on trial and, therefore, we accept that using the golfer's name was inappropriate and inaccurate.
Makatile has also admitted that statements attributed to the victim's family friend whose comments were also included in the story, were not sourced from court documents or trial testimonies.
The Sunday Independent sincerely apologises to Mr Player for the embarrassment and inconvenience the article might have caused him, his family and his businesses.