WINDHOEK – The verdict in the trial of a man accused of trafficking and raping five girls aged under 14, between November 2015 and May 2016 is expected to be delivered on August 20 at 10h00, High Court Judge President and Deputy Chief Justice Petrus Damaseb announced yesterday after hearing submissions from both the State and the defence.
The judge however said if he is not able to pronounce himself on that date, he will deliver judgment on September 12 at 10h00.
The man, Bertus Koch, 42, is charged with the rape and trafficking of the children aged nine, 11, 12 and 13 on diverse occasions in the DRC informal settlement of Swakopmund.
A greater part of the trial was conducted behind closed doors in camera as the victims are all under the age of 18 years. The State alleges Koch raped the five girls during the period November 2015 to May 2016 in his zinc house at the DRC area of Swakopmund.
According to the indictment he lured them into his house with the promises of food and sweets, then locked them up and raped them on several occasions. He faces five counts of child trafficking and five counts of rape, alternatively committing a sexual act with a child below the age of 16 years.
In her submissions, State Advocate Innocencia Niyoni argued she proved beyond reasonable doubt that Koch indeed trafficked the children and raped them as charged in the indictment.
“It is respectfully submitted that if this Honourable Court finds that there is evidence proving beyond reasonable doubt that the accused threatened all or any of the complainants with harm, detained any of the girls in his residence, abused their position of vulnerability and committed sexual acts with them, the charges of rape will have been proven against him,” Niyoni stated. She further said the evidence was presented that Koch raped the children one after the other in the presence of the others. She said he would first rape one child then call another, then another and so on while the others waited their turn which prompted Judge Damaseb to ask why they did not run away when they saw what he did to their friends.
Niyoni could not answer that but said that it could be because of the rewards they would receive such as food and hair accessories. She further said there is evidence that he threatened them and because of their age, they were vulnerable. According to her, what is clear though is that all the girls were under the age of 14 and could therefore not have consented.
“Even if the court finds they were there voluntarily, their ages plays a vital role,” Niyoni stressed. With regards to the trafficking charge, she said that while it could be true that he did not lure them into his room, the fact that he kept them there amounts to “harbouring” which is an element of child trafficking as defined in the Prevention of Organised Crime which encompasses child trafficking. Niyoni asked Judge President Damaseb to convict Koch on all charges.
Legal Aid lawyer, Mpokiseng Dube, who appeared on behalf of Koch, told the court that there is no reliable evidence proving the guilt of the accused beyond reasonable doubt.
He said the children’s testimonies are so divergent that it is difficult to know who to believe and who not. “Could it be that when they made their initial reports, the witnesses merely gave a sketch of their testimonies or is it that their stories enjoyed generous embellishments as they discussed the matter with friends and possibly their parents?” he asked and added that children has vivid imaginations that can be fueled by suggestions.
He asked the court to acquit his client on all charges.