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Man admits to fondling girl

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Allegations that 6-year-old fondled in taxi on way to Barkly West

ACCUSED: Harry Brais in the Kimberley magistrates court yesterday. Photo: Soraya Crowie

A MAN has admitted to fondling the private parts of a six-year-old girl who was sitting on his lap as they travelled in a taxi from Kimberley to Barkly West.

The young girl testified that the accused, Harry Brais, 58, who is facing a charge of sexual assault, rubbed her private parts during an incident which took place in March last year.

Her mother broke down on the stand in the Kimberley Magistrate’s Court yesterday. She said that she was not able to see anything as it was dark inside the taxi.

“We waited for the taxi at the three-way in Roodepan at 6.30pm and departed at around 7pm for Barkly West.”

She informed the court that she sat next to Brais at the back of the taxi, while her other child sat on her lap.

She stated that in order to accommodate all the passengers, one of the passengers asked if her daughter could sit on the accused’s lap.

She added that Brais had looked at her at five-minute intervals during the trip and that at one point her daughter sat leaning forward with her head down.

She said that she only realised that something had happened when her daughter told her about the incident when they climbed out of the taxi.

“I could see from her facial expression that something was wrong. She was shaking and frightened. I do not know this man, I only saw him pushing the trolleys at Shoprite in Kimberley.”

According to Brais, the mother of the complainant had instructed her daughter to sit on his lap as there was not enough space for all the passengers.

“I sat at the back of the taxi while the mother sat next to me. We left for Barkly West after 8pm.”

He explained that the child kept on slipping off his lap when they drove over the speed bumps.

“Her mother advised her to turn around so that she could sit in a more comfortable position, facing me.”

Brais at first denied that he had fondled the girl, but later admitted to it.

“It’s a lie. Her father and mother told her what to say when she comes to court. I do not know why they wanted to implicate me. On the same day the father of the child asked me for a sip of my cooldrink. When I refused he asked me for R50 and I told him that I did not have the money.”

Brais stated that the girl’s parents had wrongly accused him as they “wanted to put him back in prison”.

“I served a sentence before. I did nothing to them. I know the mother, she is pretending not to know who I am. I pushed her trolley for her on one occasion.”

Brais eventually informed the court that he had held the child by her hips and that he had touched her private parts, over her dress.

“My hands were cramping and then I relaxed them. It was not sexually intended or done on purpose.”

Brais added that a day after the incident a man had tried to hit him over the head with a wheel spanner.

Suggestible

The legal representative for the accused, Anthony McConnachie from Legal Aid South Africa, pointed out that children were “very suggestible” and requested the court to discharge his client.

“The incident took place over a year ago and the child is very small. She is testifying about something that happened a long time ago. We do not need a psychologist to talk mumbo jumbo, children can be programmed to say anything. The mother’s testimony is based on hearsay evidence from the girl.”

McConnachie argued that there were many “substantial contradictions” in the testimonies of the mother and her child.

“It is preposterous to say that it was so dark that she could not see what was happening inside the taxi, where she was sitting next to the accused. It is possible that the accused committed the offence without sexual intent. He has big hands and the girl is small.”

After his client admitted guilt, McConnachie suggested that his client had “stupidly” decided to proclaim his innocence.

“Perhaps he thought no one would have believed the child.”

State prosecutor Cornelia Deetlefs was adamant that something had happened to the girl.

“She stuck to her version of events throughout her testimony. She maintained that the accused touched her on top of her vagina. It is impossible for a six-year-old child to remember a lie so accurately after a year. If the mother wanted to lie, she could have accused Brais of more serious offences than touching her daughter inappropriately over her clothes.”

She also pointed out that the accused was sober and was aware of his actions at the time of the incident.

“Why would anyone touch a six-year-old on her vagina, if it was not sexually intended?” she asked.

Magistrate Veliswa Sityata denied the application to discharge the accused as she believed that there was sufficient evidence to prosecute the matter.

Judgment will be delivered on August 17.

The accused will remain in custody.