Tuesday, September 22, 2015

Free State police search for victims of genital mutilation

Acting on a tip-off, the Hawks have arrested a 58-year-old Danish citizen at his home in Bloemfontein.

But it is what they found in the man's fridge that has shocked even the most hardened detectives.

The garden outside his home wouldn't look out of place in any of Bloemfontein's suburban townhouse complexes. Slightly unkempt, with children's toys strewn about.

However, these typical suburban scenes belie the gruesome discovery made, when police raided this Langenhovenpark home last week.

Several neatly labelled bags, containing amputated female genitalia, vial upon vial of sedatives (for use on both humans and animals), and a collection of medical equipment were found in the house and refrigerator. The amount of surgical equipment, some of which is still neatly sealed, would leave doctors at the province's struggling hospitals green with envy.

But it's the picture and video collections that really shocked detectives. They say both a cellphone and a camera were used to carefully document the process during which the labia and clitorises of several women were removed.

The women were in varying states of consciousness, leading detectives to believe that some may have been drugged for the procedures.

"It's definitely female genital mutilation that we have discovered. And maybe child pornography. We are investigating that as well," says Investigating Officer Linda Steyn.

Steyn believes that at least one of the women seen exposing herself to the camera could be under age.

Steyn now faces the task of determining exactly how many victims there were, if they are all still alive, and whether they voluntarily submitted to the procedures.

"We've got one lady, but at this moment we're asking the community to please, if they have been a victim of the accused, come forward and give us the relevant statements."

The man responsible for it all is a 58 year old Bloemfontein businessman. Originally from Denmark, the suspect was reportedly perplexed at the police confiscating his "trophies" and medical equipment.

"He really believed that what he was doing is okay," says a police officer who was present at his arrest.

Court 20 at the Bloemfontein magistrate's court was packed with curious onlookers, hoping to catch a glimpse of the suspect, during his appearance. Many of them clutched a copy of local newspapers, on which the find is the headline.

Among them is a Danish newspaper team, here to send news home on their compatriot's alleged crimes. They are less hesitant to share their opinion on the crimes than one of the local reporters.

"He is a sick bastard. Why did he have to come here and do this to our women? I'm sure we're going to find bodies soon," she muses.

The suspect appeared on charges of sexual assault, intimidation, and contravention of the South African Health Act on Monday.

Covering his head with a towel, he attempted to hide his face, until an AP cameraman grabbed it, leading to a brief exchange of words and glares.

His appearance was brief, as police applied for a remand, for further investigation. They also mentioned that they are investigating the possibility of two outstanding warrants for the suspect's arrest. One in Lesotho, and another in his native Denmark.

He will remain in custody till at least 28 September, when his bail application will be heard.

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