olice have arrested a 60-year-old man who for the past three years allegedly raped and sexually assaulted at least 10 young girls, and whose parents he then paid off with maize and beans.
The man allegedly preyed on girls aged between nine and 15 in Blikkiesdorp, a shack settlement in Cape Town, with the help of a 32-year-old mother of four who allegedly procured the children for him, promising them gifts of cellphone airtime and ice cream.
Detective Warrant Officer Mark Heywood arrested the suspect at his offices on Tuesday. He lives in the up-market Cape Town suburb Tokai and is married with two teenage children.
City Press is aware of the man’s identity but has decided not to publish his name or photograph because it may negatively affect the police’s case against him.
He was formally charged with rape and sexual assault and appeared in the Bellville Magistrates’ Court on Thursday. Police spokesperson Constable Noloyiso Rwexana confirmed the suspect was released on R2 000 bail and ordered not to travel to Blikkiesdorp.
Sources close to the investigation told City Press his family believed he had been doing “charity work” in the impoverished neighbourhood.
On Tuesday, one of his alleged victims – 10-year-old Anna* – was taken to the police station to identify the man, who she alleged raped her with his fingers last month. Heywood, who used to work for the police’s now-disbanded child protection unit, cracked the case after Anna’s ordeal was brought to his attention.
She was allegedly assaulted on July 31 and taken for a medical examination at the Karl Bremer Hospital, where doctors confirmed she had been sexually assaulted. Her mum laid a case at the Delft Police Station.
The 10-year-old child told police how the man had picked her up in his bakkie and put his hands down the front of her pants. She had told him to stop because he was hurting her.
In an interview with City Press this week, Anna’s 53-year-old mother clutched her hands to her head. Seated on a small wooden bench inside her tin shack, the woman paused to swallow a sachet of painkillers with water scooped out of a bucket.
Despite being single and jobless with young children to feed, the thought of her daughter’s body being sexually violated in exchange for cash had her grief-stricken.
“This thing, it’s eating at my heart,” she said. “That Friday evening when my child came home, I could see everything was not right. She had a R20 note and I asked her: ‘Where did you get that?’... She started crying.”
Her mother said Anna was traumatised and could not believe the man was out on bail. “The doctor told me her wounds were very fresh and raw and that it would ensure that he was locked away for a long time,” she said.
Another girl, aged 12, told City Press how she narrowly escaped the man’s clutches in May. She and three other girls from Blikkiesdorp went for a ride in his bakkie.
“I’ve heard before that he feels up the girls, so I didn’t sit in the front with him because I was scared,” she said. “He bought us ice cream at McDonald’s. When we got back to Blikkiesdorp, he parked the car and said we must kiss him. I ran away.
“One girl stayed behind and kissed him. But she has started to smoke and also stopped going to school. “After that time, I decided never to get into his car again.” The man, she said, distributed gifts among her friends, including takkies, airtime, food and ice cream.
Police have so far received statements from two of his alleged victims and are looking to get a statement from another girl.
Community leader Bernadet Samuels told City Press that residents suspected the man of having sexually assaulted at least 10 young girls “countless times” over the course of three years. Their parents, she claimed, had turned a blind eye in exchange for bribes.
“The kids had his number. They would call him when they needed things like airtime or whatever. Then he’d come with the gifts and feel them up in exchange,” she alleged.
“He would give the parents food parcels – Shoprite bags with maize and beans and so on – presumably to turn a blind eye to what he was doing with their daughters. Some of the parents did not know of this though. For example, Anna’s mother immediately went to the police when she found out.”
Blikkiesdorp, a shack settlement about 30km from the centre of Cape Town, has a population of 26 000 residents. The area, racked by drugs and crime, has an unemployment rate of about 85%.
“The saddest part of all is that these kids are desperate for money and food, so it is easy to take advantage of them,” said Samuels.
A source close to the police investigation said: “Everyone in Blikkiesdorp talks about him and what he was doing to these girls. We hope it will be like Bill Cosby – with more girls coming forward once the first ones have spoken out.”
Investigation insiders told City Press that the man picked up the girls and took them to the nearby Airport Shopping Centre in Belhar, or the McDonalds’ in Kuilsriver for ice cream.
He stands accused of driving with his victims on his lap, and would allegedly kiss and penetrate them with his fingers. He also allegedly manipulated them to perform oral sex on him.
“He comes across as Mr Nice Guy, driving slowly around Blikkiesdorp,” said Samuel.
Rwexana said the man would appear in court again on October 7 with the woman accused of luring the girls to him.
A picture on the man’s Facebook profile shows him smiling while hugging two teenagers, with his wife and an elderly woman seated in front of him. Shortly after City Press called him to enquire about his activities in Blikkiesdorp, his Facebook profile was deleted. He denied having any links to Blikkiesdorp.
*Name has been changed
DISBELIEF The mother of a 10-year-old victim – who delivered a police statement on Tuesday – speaks of her pain