The owners of a South African gay ‘cure’ camp have been found guilty of murder, child abuse and assault with intent to do grievous bodily harm.
The ruling, made today by the Vereeniging Regional Court in Johannesburg, involved the case of Raymond Buys, 15, who tragically died in April 2011 after receiving horrific treatment at the hands of Alex de Koker and Michael Erasmus at the Echo Wild Game Rangers camp.
The camp, in which two other boys had previously died, promised parents to ‘turn boys into men’.
Just 10 weeks before his death, the teen’s parents signed him up to the Echo Wild Game Rangers training course in perfect health.
However, when he reached hospital Buys was severely malnourished, dehydrated, his arm was broken in two places and there were burns and wounds all over his body.
‘Accused one [De Koker] was a pathetic witness,’ Magistrate Retha Willemse said following the trial. ‘Accused one tried to mislead the court. De Koker didn’t want Buys to return to his mother, because he was benefiting financially from having Buys at the camp,’ she added.
The court refused to accept Erasmus’ claims that he followed De Koker’s instruction because he didn’t have any other choice. ‘Accused two didn’t just follow instructions from accused one to abuse Buys, but also did it out of his own initiative,’ said Willemse.
According to SAPA, the court heard that Buys was struck with a spade, a stick and a long rubber pipe. During his time at the camp he was also forced to pick up his own faeces with his mouth, eat soap, and was beaten while unconscious in order to ‘wake him up’.
Witnesses told the court that De Koker physically abused Buys, claiming that he chained him to a bed after he tried to commit suicide.
A doctor who examined Buys the the day before his death said that he was ’emaciated’, ‘brain damaged’ and ‘showed signs of kidney failure’.
Following the guilty verdict, Buy’s mother, who was watching from the public gallery, burst into tears.
In 2007, Eric Calitz, 18 and Nicolaas Van Der Walt, 19, both died after being enrolled at the Echo Wild Rangers camp.
Doctors said that Calitz, whose parents were informed of his death via text message, died from a seizure, dehydration and bleeding from the brain. De Koker claimed that Van Der Walt died from a heart attack, but doctors said that the teenager had been choked with a seatbelt.
Despite this, the camp was allowed to remain over after De Koker was given a suspended sentence over the death of Calitz, and escaped charges altogether over Van Der Walt.
De Koker and Erasmus will be sentenced at a later date.