Child rapist convicted 18 years later
After 18 years, six months and four days, a young woman’s wait for justice came to an end this week when her rapist was convicted of kidnapping and sexually assaulting her when she was a little girl.
On May 26 1998, 10-year-old Lulo Dlamini* left her home in Alexandra in Gauteng with her brother’s 15-year-old girlfriend, Nunu. The two went to Johannesburg Hospital to visit Nunu’s sick child.
On the way, the two stopped at the Mimosa Hotel in Hillbrow, where Nunu’s aunt lived. A man was in the reception area and told them they were too young to be there. He offered to take Nunu upstairs to look for her aunt, leaving Lulo alone downstairs.
Some time later, the man returned alone, saying Nunu would meet them at the hospital and that Lulo should go with him. “Where are we going?” she asked. “Don’t worry, Nunu is at the hospital waiting for us. How old are you?” “Ten,” she said. “You are a grown-up,” he replied. Lulo never made it to the hospital. She was led by the hand to a nearby park, where the man pulled up her dress, stuffed her panties in her mouth and raped her.
All she could remember was that he was lightskinned and some of his teeth were missing.
This week, in the Johannesburg Regional Court, David White (50) walked into the dock in leg irons, a year after the police’s forensic database identified his DNA as a match to Lulo’s rapist.
Magistrate Vincent Ratshibvumo was hearing closing arguments. White initially had a Legal Aid lawyer, but fired him and chose to defend himself, claiming that he was involved in child prostitution but was not guilty of rape.
In his summation of evidence, Ratshibvumo recalled how White smiled when crossexamining Nunu, saying that the two of them had an “illegal business” – an allegation which Nunu vehemently denied.
During his closing arguments, White read out the following: “Your honour, I cannot be found guilty of rape. The state has rightly indicated that the original docket has gone missing [and] there are inconsistencies in the narratives of the witnesses. My body weight at the time of the alleged rape was not enough to pin down the 10-year-old, hold a hand over her mouth, pull a knife on her, take her panties off and stuff them in her mouth. I should be found guilty of having sex with a minor with no forced entry.”
Ratshibvumo summarised the testimony of witnesses, including Nunu and Lulo’s mother, Busisiwe, who told the court that she gave Nunu permission to take her daughter that day.
It was 7pm when she received a call from Hilbrow Police Station, telling her to come immediately and that her daughter had been raped. When she arrived with her husband, they found their daughter sitting next to a nurse. As the child held out the bloody panties to her mother, the nurse told her parents she had been examined. It was that DNA sample, taken that day from Lulo – who is now 28 – which led to the arrest of her rapist 18 years later. A chief forensic analyst who testified said the chances of their DNA matching was one in 580 billion people.
After the police’s forensic database identified White’s DNA as a match to Lulo’s rapist, a police officer arrived at her home last year to tell her that he suspected he may have found him.
On August 5 last year, the officer fetched Lulo and her mother. He took them to White’s home in Eldorado Park to see if she could identify him. White was leaning over his garden wall. Lulo recognised him from the car and cried, “It is him, mum.”
Lulo and her family are not in the almost empty courtroom as Ratshibvumo continues to recount the details of the trial. A fan whirs and a prison warden in brown pants and a golf shirt picks at his nails. Opposite him, a police officer slouches in his chair. Two men in the gallery look disinterested.
A little more than three hours after he started speaking, Ratshibvumo announces that he is ready to hand down his verdict. He takes a long pause and asks White to stand. White stares straight ahead.
“Guilty as charged for kidnapping and rape.”