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Forensics dept blamed for slow progress in Hess murder and rape

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Activists picketed outside the Wynberg Magistrate’s Court to demand that no bail be served to the Jesse Hess rape suspect. The aunt of the University of the Western Cape (UWC) student confirmed that the 31-year-old man arrested is a relative of the family and is alleged to have raped a 16-year-old girl in Hanover Park this week. Sandy Hess, along with activists from SA Women Fight Back and Enough is Enough, waited anxiously for the accused to appear, while the Blomvlei Neighborhood Watch members representing the Hanover Park community protested outside holding placards. Messages urging support for the two young women have been circulating on instant messaging platforms, calling on communities to demand justice through protest action.

Jesse Hess (19) and her grandfather (85) were both murdered in their flat in Parow earlier this year. However, Hess was not only brutally murdered, but raped as well. The brutality of the crimes committed against Hess and her grandfather added fuel to the fire in the hearts of many South Africans – men and women – who were fed up with the scourge of femicide and sexual violence in the country.

There’s widespread public outrage at both the alleged perpetrator as well as the South African justice system, due to the fact that the suspect was out on parole when he allegedly raped the young Hanover Park girl.

Kate Steyn, the woman who initiated a crowdfunding campaign for Jesse Hess and who has been heavily involved in the case explained that to the best of her knowledge, the forensics departments tasked with processing the evidence related to Hess’ case have been inefficient and are in a sense responsible for significant delays in the case.

Steyn placed little to no blame on investigating SAPS officers, commending them for their service and professionalism.

“Early on in the case, the police had a strong suspicion of who it was [that committed the crimes] and the man was even arrested,” said Steyn before adding that the suspect was released shortly after his arrest due to insufficient evidence to justify his being held in jail.

“We’ve all been waiting for this forensic report to come out so he could be arrested.”

It’s been almost 2 months and still, no DNA evidence or fingerprint evidence has been released, according to Steyn. She says the evidence is a requirement if there is to be hope of successfully prosecuting the suspect with all the crimes Steyn and others suspect he is guilty of committing.

Steyn also says that if forensic analyses were done timeously and efficiently, the perpetrator “would’ve been behind bars weeks ago”.

“I’ve spent the last 24 hours chewing over how on earth somebody like this was ever allowed out on parole. It’s horrific and a huge disappointment in our justice system failing young women…

As much as I’m elated that he’s finally arrested, I’m equally angry and frustrated that it has taken this long and that the system keeps letting us down.”

The arrested suspect has not been officially linked to the murder of Hess – all evidence potentially linking him to the murder is only circumstantial at this point, indicated Steyn.

The suspect is therefore not charged with Hess and her grandfather’s murder. Police still require the forensic evidence, which Steyn is sure will incriminate the man currently in custody.

Steyn says that while she is “delighted for Jesse and her family that there’s some progress in the case and that we’re moving toward some kind of closure,” she also feels devastated that another girl had to suffer before there was any movement.

Latest update

The case of rape opened against the accused in the matter relating to the 16-year-old has been postponed until 14 February 2020 for further investigation. The suspect will, however, remain in detention and will have his next court appearance at the Bellville Magistrate’s Court


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