Misleading view of the database: Update

We previously blogged about a letter criticizing Chris Asplen’s letter in The Witness. The final response published in reaction to Ms. de Haas’s letter was edited down and published, which promptly received a response. It is unfortunate someone in the public does not consider the change in legislation and the new DNA bill as vital to decreasing the shocking statistics of rape and murder in our beautiful country. In response, Dr Carolyn Hancock has highlighted some of the cases in SA where a DNA database would no doubt have saved many lives and where DNA evidence was used successfully.

There has recently been debate in the press on whether South Africa needs a DNA database. In an effort to highlight the incredible potential of this form of evidence, I thought it may be a good idea to write about some of South Africa’s most notorious criminals and their victims.

Moses Sithole began raping women in his twenties, claiming 3 victims before one testified. He was sent to prison for 6 years. Shortly after his release in 1993 he began his murder spree. In total he is known to have raped 40 women, 38 of whom were strangled with their own underwear. On 5 Dec 1997, he was sent to prison for 2410 years with eligibility for parole in 930 years. He is incarcerated at Pretoria’s C-Max prison. IF South Africa had kept his profile on a DNA database after his first release from prison in 1993, he could have been identified and apprehended after his first victim was raped and killed – literally 37 women’s lives could have been saved!

Many of us will remember the tragic case of nine-month-old “Baby Tshepang” who was attacked and viciously raped in 2001. Her injuries were so substantial that gang rape was assumed. This horrifying attack provoked outrage in the local community and six men were swiftly arrested and subsequently spent three months in jail. All six men lost their jobs. However, DNA tests later revealed that there was a sole rapist and that none of the accused had a DNA profile that matched that of the assailant. The six falsely accused men were immediately released and exonerated of the crime. David Potse, a former boyfriend of Baby Tshepang’s mother, was arrested and shown to be an exact DNA match with the rapist. He was sentenced to life imprisonment. This case was particularly revolutionary in South Africa where DNA proved the innocence of 6 people and led to the conviction of the rapist. In South Africa the conviction rate for child rape is a mere three percent.

On 6 June 2011 Shavani Phophi, known as the Muldersdrift rapist, was found guilty of 6 rapes, 3 robberies with aggravating circumstance, and two cases of theft. Five of the rape victims were adult women who Phophi offered work and then lured to Nooitgedacht to rape them in the veld. The InvestigativePsychology Unit of the SAPS utilized a number of strategies, including DNA, to successfully link all of the adult rape cases and to locate the suspect in his shack in KyaSands. After arrest the suspect was then also linked through the DNA database to a rape of a 10-year-old girl in 2005. Without the database, the case of the little girl would not have otherwise come to the attention of the police, as the other victims were adult females raped between June 2009 and May 2010. Sentencing is due to take place on 2nd August.

Given the extremely high rates of recidivism in South Africa,the potential for our DNA database to help solve and prevent crime is substantial.  DNA analysis cannot stop the first crime from occurring, but it can provide investigators with the tools they need to identity a suspect and remove the threat to public safety before the same perpetrator can re-offend.


Comments are closed.