Crime Library: Criminal Minds and Methods

The Ripper Rapists

Courts Under Fire

Naturally, when it became known that the two men responsible for the brutal attack that exploded onto the front pages — not only around Port Elizabeth but the whole country — had been on bail for two previous attacks, all hell broke loose around the courts.

Dullah Omar
Dullah Omar

Dullah Omar, the Minister of Justice, contacted the Attorney-General of the Eastern Cape, requesting an investigation and a report.

Daan Pieterse, president of the district court, and Nick Bester, acting chief magistrate of Port Elizabeth, released a statement in defense of the court's actions. The following section was quoted in Die Burger (Oos-Kaap) of December 22, 1994: "It has to be borne in mind that, in accordance with the Constitution, an accused has the right to be released from custody with or without bail unless it is not in the interest of justice. The state, and this includes the police, has to prove that the interests of justice will be impeded in order to prevent release. This can only be done if the investigating officer provides the prosecutor with enough evidence, and if the prosecutor then presents this evidence to the court."

Fair enough. But in my opinion there is only one crime more serious than rape, namely murder, and no one accused of either should simply be released on their own recognizance. In the least, some time should be allowed the investigating officer to determine the merits of the case and the criminal history of the suspects. And if an accused is to be released on bail, it should be a proper amount — R100, a pittance, is spitting in the face of any woman who has ever been raped.

Meanwhile, three more rapes of women ranging in age from 16 to 24 years were reported within two days. The cases were not related to each other or to du Toit and Kruger, but the news was met with outrage.

Statistically, women in South Africa have a better chance of being raped than not.

On December 27, Les Roberts, the Attorney-General of the Eastern Cape, announced that the manner in which bail applications are handled, would be improved. Better communication between police officers and prosecutors would be a particularly prominent feature. In the first case, du Toit was released because he had a permanent address and stable employment, and since the woman had waited a week before reporting the attack, there was no physical evidence.

After the second rape, the suspects were arrested and taken to a different police station. They were brought before the court the next morning, without an investigating officer having been assigned to the case. Hence, the prosecutor didn't realize that one of the accused was already being investigated for another rape, and bail was not opposed.

Roberts was quoted in Die Burger (Oos-Kaap) of December 28, 1994, as saying that "the prosecutor in the second case did not have knowledge of the first. He had no reason to suspect that Mr du Toit had already been released with a warning in relation to a previous rape charge."

Of course, had the prosecutor done some research on the type of criminals he was prosecuting, he would have known that rape is a crime of violence which is usually seated in some underlying psychological motive, and hence, rapists tend to have excellent chances of both having raped before and raping again in the future. Such an informed prosecutor would then suspect previous charges of rape and should be motivated to ascertain whether this is in fact the case. Armed with such knowledge, he or she can then present the court with the appropriate evidence, thereby saving other innocent women from having to deal with the trauma of rape for what usually tends to be an extended period of time.

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