Durban – The 13-year-old stepdaughter of a Verulam man accused of keeping her as a sex slave, was very frightened of him – especially as he had threatened to “put her in her mother’s place”.
Her mother died in 2014.
These facts formed part of the closing arguments of senior State advocate Cheryl Naidu in the Durban High Court on Thursday in a case which has been shocking in its detail as to what apparently happened to the child from January 2017 to June 2018.
She was only 10 at the time and was allegedly used as a sex slave and to create child pornography, raped repeatedly, forced to perform sex acts and trafficked.
The stepfather cannot be named to protect the identity of the child. He has pleaded not guilty to all
36 charges, which was reduced from the original 56 charges
And on Thursday the dock remained empty.
This was after a dramatic twist last week when the man unexpectedly stormed out of the witness box while being cross-examined by Naidu over why he wore female underwear and had images of himself in such underwear.
The man became very upset, ignoring the judge’s instruction to respect the court and stated he would no longer be present in court, including when judgment was handed down.
Judge Mohini Moodley granted his request that he no longer attend trial proceedings, but stated he must still be brought to court and kept in the holding cells in case defence lawyer Thiagraj Pillay needed to confer.
Closing arguments proceeded on Thursday and Naidu highlighted the child’s testimony, which included her extreme fear of her stepfather.
According to the indictment, the man insisted on having custody of the child after her mother died .
Naidu stated the child became isolated as the accused constantly moved around, from Johannesburg to Overport, Redhill and Verulam along with his girlfriend and her toddler.
The situation came to a head in June 2018 when neighbours kept the child in their home for the night after they had found her crying outside.
The child said her stepfather had beaten her. While staying overnight she had told the neighbours about the alleged abuse, telling them to “look on the phone”.
The accused was arrested on June 11, 2018. The start of the trial was delayed due to Covid-19 and related restrictions, and was delayed a second time due to the accused having a diabetes-related illness, before getting under way in mid-October.
The media was banned from viewing photographic or video cellphone evidence during closing arguments.
Naidu submitted that the evidence in the videos and images corroborated the child’s version of events.
Pillay brought to the judge’s attention some charges had been duplicated, and questioned the trafficking charge in terms of the word “harbouring’.
Judgment will be handed down on December 9.
The Independent on Saturday