School coughs up N$500k after kidnapping, rape

21 April 2020 | Justice

JANA-MARI SMITH

WINDHOEK

A Windhoek pre-primary school has agreed to pay N$500 000 to the aggrieved parents of a five-year-old girl who was abducted and raped in August last year.

Their daughter was picked up by a previously convicted rapist from the Blinkogies Educare Centre in Khomasdal without her family’s knowledge or approval.

The child was released into his custody despite a strict agreement between parents and the school that only pre-approved guardians are allowed to collect children from the school, court documents state.

The settlement agreement between Blinkogies Educare Centre and the parents stems from a civil lawsuit against the pre-primary school instituted last year, in which the parents demanded N$1.4 million for damages.

“As a result of the defendant's negligent conduct, [our daughter] was raped,” the parents stated in their claim.

“She sustained physical and psychological injuries which need the attention of medical doctors and psychologists at the cost of the family.”

They added that the rape resulted in “emotional and psychological suffering, pain, shock and trauma” for the girl and her family.

The parents, whose names are withheld to protect the identity of their daughter, sued Blinkogies Educare Centre, its principal and a teacher in October last year.

The settlement agreement, which was made an order of the Windhoek High Court earlier this month, states that the pre-primary school will pay N$500 000 to the family and that the parties agreed to pay their own legal costs.

Negligence

In their court papers, the parents said when their daughter was enrolled at Blinkogies in March 2019, they identified three guardians - themselves and an older daughter - who were authorised pick up the child from school.

Nevertheless, on 1 August 2019, a teacher, identified in the court documents, allowed Jeremiah van Wyk, “a total stranger”, to pick up their daughter after school.

After Van Wyk’s arrest, it emerged that he had a previous conviction for murder and rape.

The child was discovered that evening around 21:00 by a passer-by who saw her sitting next to Van Wyk near a bar.

The woman recognised her from the photographs her family had circulated online in a frantic attempt to locate her.

Members of the community managed to remove the child from Van Wyk and contacted the family and police.

Van Wyk was arrested and charged with rape, abduction and an alternative charge of kidnapping, to which he pleaded guilty the next week.

At his first court appearance, Van Wyk confessed to the abduction and sexual assault of the child.

He said he was “drunk and drugged” at the time of the incident and admitted that he knew what he was doing “was wrong”.

The case has stalled meanwhile, as witness statements are still being collected.

Van Wyk’s next court appearance is scheduled for 24 April and he remains behind bars.

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