A Springs businessman, accused of torturing his five children and keeping them hostage in his “house of horrors” for years, on Monday denied guilt on charges ranging from attempted murder and rape to drug dealing, child abuse and neglect.
The man’s wife, who sat as far away from him as possible in the North Gauteng High Court in Pretoria, also pleaded not guilty to 20 charges, including 10 of child abuse and neglect, failing to send two of her children to school, attempting to murder her 11-year-old son and hiding him from the police well knowing that he was seriously injured.
The woman said in her plea explanation she was afraid of her husband as she was also a victim of his physical, sexual and mental abuse and could not protect her children against him.
She pleaded not guilty to being in possession of or dealing in drugs or forcing her 16-year-old daughter to be a drug dealer. She insisted her husband was the “boss” in the house and had the final decision about everything – even of when their children went to school or what they ate.
The husband admitted in his plea explanation that he had once, two months before his arrest, touched his 16-year-old daughter’s private parts, but claimed he thought she was not his child at the time, because his wife had told him that another man had fathered her.
He denied repeatedly raping and sexually molesting her for years.
He denied seriously injuring his 11-year-old son or attempting to murder him, but admitted that he had assaulted him once and then hid him from the police because he was scared of what might happen to him “if the police saw his son’s injuries”.
He admitted only briefly sending his two eldest children to school, but claimed they had “home schooling” for a while and that he never knew it was unlawful not to send them to school, as he only had standard five (grade 7) and his mother took him out of school when he was in standard six.
He denied manufacturing explosives, but admitted that he had been in possession of a large number of fireworks. He claimed he never knew it was unlawful to attach nails to the fireworks.
The father admitted he had a duty to take care of his children, protect them and provide them with food and medical treatment, but denied that he had abused or neglected them. He admitted the contents of numerous reports about the children by medical experts, including psychologists and therapists.
The father was arrested after his 11-year-old son fled to neighbours and begged them for help in May last year.
According to the charge sheet, the parents allegedly used violence when they fetched their son and took him home, where his father allegedly cruelly assaulted him by punching and slapping him.
The mother allegedly did nothing to stop the assault.
After the neighbours reported the incident to the police, the police went to the accuseds’ home the next day, where they allegedly found four of the children in a severely neglected state. The house was allegedly in severe disarray and extremely dirty with rats and mice openly running around.
When the father arrived at the house, he allegedly pretended to be his wife’s brother in an effort to stop the police from finding his 11-year-old son. The boy was found in Warden several days later with his father’s sister, where his parents had allegedly hidden him.
The State alleges the accused had over a period physically abused their children by slapping and punching them, and hitting them with objects. They were allegedly also repeatedly tied up either with handcuffs or ropes and were allegedly burnt, shocked, knocked down, thrown, dropped, sprayed with pepper spray and shot with projectiles from gas pistols.
The State alleges the accused had failed to provide for their children’s physical, emotional, social and intellectual needs, that none of them ever received medical care and that two of the children never attended school.
The children allegedly never received proper food and the younger children were underfed, while some of the children’s teeth were rotten.
The trial continues.