Child rapist con­victed 18 years later

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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.”

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