A 25-year-old Brakpan man on Monday admitted in the High Court in Pretoria that he had raped and strangled his 4-year-old niece.
Judge Mahomed Ismail convicted Sarel du Toit on charges of rape and murder after Du Toit handed in a plea explanation in which he admitted raping and murdering his brother Morne Pretorius’s 4-year-old daughter, Jasmin Lee Pretorius.
The crimes were committed at her grandmother’s flat in Brakpan on December 27 2013.
Jasmin’s mother Sasha Bam and her father were both in court, but sat in separate rows.
Bam, who was surrounded by family, members of her church and the Brakpan biking community, told reporters she used to be angry with her daughter’s father, but no longer blamed him for what happened and regarded him as a good father.
She wore a pink T-shirt with a picture of her daughter on the front and the words “Justice4Jasmin”on the back.
Bam was heavily pregnant with her third child when Jasmin was killed. She said her son Justin, 18-months old, was just as bubbly and vibrant as her daughter used to be.
Jasmin and her older sister were visiting her father for the weekend when she was murdered. She was only discovered under Du Toit’s bed after the community had been searching for her for almost a day.
Du Toit said in his statement he had visited the Masonic Hotel in Brakpan with his brother and his brother’s girlfriend earlier that night, where he had a few drinks.
“We left the hotel at about 00:30. My brother and his girlfriend went to her house. He gave me the keys to our flat so that I could get in…
“After I went to my room, I went to my brother’s room and saw the deceased on the bed where she was sleeping.
“I touched her and then returned to my room. I then went back to my brother’s room and took the deceased to my room.
“There I raped her at one stage. She woke up. I then strangled her.
“I didn’t know what to do with her. I saw that she was dead and put her under my bed.
“I did not plan beforehand to kill the deceased. The decision to strangle her came to me when she woke up and was at the spur of the moment. I did it to prevent her from making a noise.
“The next morning, I initially denied that I knew where she was.
“After my arrest, while I was questioned by the police, I said the deceased was in the flat. The police found her under my bed,” he said.
Du Toit, who has previous convictions for robbery and the unlawful possession of a firearm, was previously referred for mental observation, but was found fit to stand trial.
He admitted that he knew what he was doing when he raped and strangled the child, that he knew it was wrong and that he was able to control himself.
Du Toit wrote letters to his mother and brother while in custody.
The handwritten letters, in which he expressed regret for what he did and repeatedly stated that he “did not deserve to live”, were handed in as evidence.
In one of several letters, Du Toit said he did not know why he did it and was not crazy, but “just struck a blank”. He knew he was drunk at the time, but admitted that it was no excuse.
Sentencing proceedings will start on Tuesday.