Namibia: Magistrate Not Convinced By Meersig Kidnappers' Version

THE version that four Walvis Bay residents told the Swakopmund Regional Court during their trial on charges of kidnapping and assault could not be accepted, the presiding magistrate said when she convicted all the accused on Friday.

Magistrate Gaynor Poulton found Logan Pretorius, his fiancée, Sandra Riobo, and friends Ashley Januarie and Curven Vries guilty on counts of kidnapping and assault with intent to do grievous bodily harm in connection with an incident in which three teenage boys were detained at Pretorius' house in the Meersig suburb in August 2014.

The four accused, who were charged with having detained the boys, aged 13 and 14, and of having subjected the boys to several hours of interrogation and violence that included beatings, kicking and dog bites, claimed they decently interrogated and counselled the boys for allegedly wanting to steal Pretorius' dogs, and for allegedly being responsible for the death of another of his dogs.

"The accused's version that the complainants fabricated the allegations because the boys did not want their parents to know is not supported by corroborated and medical evidence. The accused were in each other's company, and their version that they did not kidnap or assault the boys is not supported in the evidence," said Poulton.

The three boys said they were looking at Pretorius' dogs at his home, wanting to play with them, on 28 August 2014. Pretorius and his co-accused, however, said they suspected the boys wanted to steal the dogs.

The boys fled from the house on their bicycles, and the four pursued them in a car, eventually taking the boys off their bikes with force and loading them into a vehicle, and then taking them to Pretorius' house, where they were interrogated in the garage.

The boys were released several hours later, when Pretorius also gave them taxi money.

The four accused were arrested the following day after the boys' parents had seen their injuries, which included cuts, bruises, swellings as well as bite and scratch marks. The injuries were also confirmed by a medical doctor.

Pretorius and his co-accused denied the allegations against themselves, stating they were in deep distress and hurt after one of Pretorius' dogs was killed during this time - and suspected that the boys were responsible as they were seen earlier at the house.

The four claimed they never hurt the children, but gave them bread and water, and counselled them about the consequences of theft. A fight allegedly broke out between the boys when one confessed they wanted to steal the dogs, but the boys denied this in court.

Pretorius admitted he had slapped one of the boys only once after the boy said he should rather give them a hiding than take them to the police or call their parents.

In her judgement, the magistrate said all the four accused were present during the incident, and none of them distanced themselves from what happened.

"The court is satisfied that they wanted to deprive the boys of their freedom, and to assault the boys. All of them saw what was happening," she said.

She added that after considering all the evidence, it was highly unlikely that the boys were taken to the garage for hours and reprimanded in a decent way and the only thing done to them was the slapping of one boy, while they went home later with various injuries.

"It is highly probable that the accused took them forcefully to the garage because they were angry about the dog, and kept them and assaulted them continuously. There is no reasonable doubt the accused are guilty," the magistrate said.

The four, who are being represented by defence lawyer Boris Isaacks, will hear their sentence on 10 June.

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