By Loushe Jordaan-Gilbert
The release of a 57-year-old man alleged to have raped a one-year-old child from Woodlands in Mitchells Plain last week has left residents in disbelief. Thomas Demas was arrested last Thursday on charges of rape after the mother of the little girl discovered blood on her nappy. He was subsequently released on Tuesday and placed into protective custody due to “a lack of evidence”.
The provincial spokesperson for the National Prosecuting Authority, Eric Ntabazalia said the decision was made to release the suspect while they await the DNA test results, which has been prioritised.
“After careful consideration, the state took a decision to provisionally withdraw charges against the accused pending the outcome of the DNA tests,” he said in a statement.
Residents have expressed their frustration saying more is being done to protect the suspect in question, while the toddler is left to deal with the trauma suffered after the incident.
Public Relations Officer at Lenteguer police station Denwor Olhson said emotions are high amongst residents.
“The family and the residents are angry and they feel the justice system has failed them,” he stated.
When asked why the suspect was placed in police custody, Olhson said there is not enough evidence to link him to the rape incident and should he be found innocent, he would be able to sue the state.
“At this moment there is no direct evidence linking him to the crime, the only evidence is that he was the only person with the child when the incident allegedly took place. There are no eyewitnesses. The director of the public prosecution office gave a clear instruction to have him released until DNA evidence links him to the crime,” he explained.
“The decision to place him in police custody is simply because the suspect said in court that he was assaulted by the residents earlier.”
Olhson confirmed that the suspect was arrested on charges of rape before, which means that the case needs to be prioritised to ensure that justice does take its course.
Lentegeur CPF spokesperson Byron De Villers said the release is a grave injustice to the family.
“To release a man who raped before is a kick in the gut. We are so unhappy that he was released and is being kept in a safe house while no one protects that child,” he said.
The mother who refused to be mentioned told VOC news that she is disgusted at how the matter is being dealt with, however she will not be engaging any media houses as she is still trying to come to terms with what happened.
“Everything is still raw and sensitive and right now …I don’t want to speak to the media,” she said.
It has been confirmed that no support has been offered to the family in terms of counselling.
Police spokesperson FC Van Wyk earlier said that the case was withdrawn by the Senior Public Prosecutor (SPP) pending a DNA report.
“The accused was released on condition that he stays out of Mitchells Plain for his own safety. DNA analysis was prioritised by SPP for DNA reports,” he said.
The case has been postponed to 9 September 2019.