Rape suspect freed because of DNA testing delays, raped and murdered 11-year-old 9 months later

Rape suspect freed because of DNA testing delays, raped and murdered 11-year-old 9 months later

A rape suspect who was freed because of delays in DNA analysis at the police forensic laboratories raped and murdered an 11-year-old child nine months later.

This emerged on Friday in a judgment handed down by KwaZulu-Natal judge Mohini Moodley in which the rapist was convicted for his crimes and sentenced to an effective 20 years’ imprisonment.

When the man, who cannot be named, committed the offences in September 2019 and June 2020, he was not yet 18.

While he is now an adult, in terms of a ruling handed down by the Constitutional Court, child offenders, witnesses and victims cannot be named, even as adults.

The delays in DNA testing, caused by a contractual dispute with a service provider, resulted in a backlog of more than 200,000 cases by last year. Most involve violent crimes and gender-based violence (GBV).

When sentencing the accused, Moodley said: “I am aware of media reports and the concern raised with the minister of justice and the president of the adverse impact of the DNA delays on victims of GBV and the administration of justice.”

She said the case before her was a clear example of the tragic consequences of this.

The rapist was arrested in September 2019 after a 16-year-old girl reported to police that he had attacked her while she was walking to Sunday school. However, charges were provisionally withdrawn against him, pending the DNA results.

He was rearrested in June the following year for the rape and murder of the 11-year-old.

At his trial, he initially pleaded not guilty but after hearing the evidence of his first victim, he admitted to committing all the crimes.

In sentencing proceedings in the Mtunzini high court, Moodley said she could not ignore that after he raped the first time, charges were provisionally withdrawn because of the delay in obtaining the DNA result.

She said the prosecutor had explained why the prosecuting authority provisionally withdrew charges in such cases, to avoid an accused being discharged because of trial delays.

She said although the accused was young at the time, he had committed the crimes “sequentially”, when he was aware of the legal consequences of the first rape. He was undeterred by this.

In handing down the sentence, she said she had taken into account the trauma of the first victim, who had broken down in tears while giving evidence, recounting how he had a knife and how she fought to escape his clutches.

She said while he had admitted to raping and then murdering the 11-year-old girl, apparently because she threatened to tell her uncle what he had done, the postmortem report indicated he had not just strangled her, as he claimed.

“The deliberate killing of a child to protect himself aggravates his culpability, which his age cannot detract from,” the judge said.

She sentenced him to 20 years’ imprisonment on each of the two counts of rape and one of murder, and ordered that they run concurrently.

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