Ac­cused pri­est ‘lost ev­ery­thing’

Post - - News - CHAR­LENE SOMDUTH

HINDU pri­est Cooper Reddy, ac­cused of re­peat­edly rap­ing a young girl he had blessed at his Chatsworth tem­ple, is a free man af­ter years of an­guish and emo­tional tor­ture.

The Chatsworth grand­fa­ther, 64, was ac­quit­ted by the Dur­ban Re­gional Court last week af­ter a re­trial.

Con­victed in 2013, he suc­cess­fully ap­pealed against the verdict and 15 year sen­tence af­ter spend­ing a few months in Westville Prison.

In Jan­uary 2014 the con­vic­tion and sen­tence were set aside by the Dur­ban High Court, which had found ir­reg­u­lar­i­ties in the trial and con­vic­tion.

Last week, the mag­is­trate pre­sid­ing over the new trial found the ev­i­dence rid­dled with ir­reg­u­lar­i­ties.

Now Reddy is de­ter­mined to get his life back on track.

His life had fallen apart when he was ac­cused of rap­ing a 9-year-old girl from 2006 un­til 2010, when she was 14.

The girl had com­plained of “tummy prob­lems” and was taken to him for spir­i­tual heal­ing.

The com­plainant said she went to the pri­est on four oc­ca­sions, ini­tially with her mother, un­til Reddy al­legedly told her it was “in­con­ve­nient” for her mother and he would fetch her.

He al­legedly asked her to take off her clothes and sit on a bed be­fore he raped her.

The girl had claimed that while there were other peo­ple in and out­side the tem­ple, the pri­est would take her to a pri­vate room in­side.

Reddy re­peat­edly de­nied hav­ing sex­u­ally as­saulted the com­plainant in any way or tak­ing her into the room by her­self.

He said he had blessed the girl in the pres­ence of her mother by plac­ing his hands on her fore­head.

Af­ter his ar­rest, Reddy was granted bail in Jan­uary 2011 and un­til 2013 he had been in and out of court. Af­ter the ini­tial trial in May 2013, he was con­victed on two counts of rape, one of sex­ual as­sault and one count of in­de­cent as­sault. Reddy was sen­tenced to 15 years’ im­pris­on­ment.

But now the nightmare is over for him.

“Since the al­le­ga­tions sur­faced and sub­se­quent re­ports in the me­dia, my life has been thrown into tur­moil. I was a re­spected fig­ure in the com­mu­nity, but the al­le­ga­tions left me and my fam­ily em­bar­rassed,” said the fa­ther of two.

He said only he and his fam­ily had known the truth.

“I lost many devo­tees be­cause of the claims against me. But through it all I held my head up high be­cause I knew I was in­no­cent. Dur­ing my stay in Westville Prison I lived in fear, be­ing an el­derly man. I spent my time in prayer and read­ing.”

Reddy said since 2010 he had lost ev­ery­thing he had worked hard for.

“Due to my ex­or­bi­tant le­gal fees, my home in Shall­cross was re­pos­sessed and I had to sell my ve­hi­cles. I now live with my sis­ter and I am try­ing to piece my life back to­gether.”

For Reddy, the sup­port of his wife, Ka­matchie, and his son and daugh­ter kept him strong.

Said his wife: “I’ve been mar­ried to him for 42 years and knew he could never do some­thing like this. He was re­spected in the com­mu­nity, al­ways help­ing the youth.”

The 62-year-old said it had bro­ken her heart to visit him in prison.

“I’m glad this is all over. Now we can fi­nally move on and re­build our lives.”

Cooper Reddy at his Chatsworth tem­ple.

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