A South African game-ranger training camp leader is on trial for murder after allegedly starving, burning and electrocuting a 15-year-old boy with learning difficulties.
Alex de Koker, now 49, a self-styled “general” with links to white supremacist groups, and Echo Wild Game Rangers staffer Michael Erasmus, 20, are facing charges in Vereeniging District Court of murder, child abuse and neglect, and two cases of assault with intent to do grievous bodily harm.
Koker charged parents R22,000 (approximately $2,451 as of May 1, 2013,) to take their effeminate or troubled teenage boys and turn them into “men” at his Echo Wild Game Rangers camp, housed on land owned by Koker in Swartruggens, an hour south of Johannesburg.
Raymond Buys, the boy in question, entered the program in 2011 in perfect physical health.
He was two months into the 10 week camp program when he was admitted to a Vereeniging hospital. By then, Buys was painfully thin and severely dehydrated, doctors found evidence of brain damage, he had a broken arm and displayed bruising and cigarette burns up and down his body. Doctors told Buys’ mother that her son’s chances of recovery were “virtually zero” and, two weeks later, he died after being taken off life support.
Mrs Buys says she had hoped de Koker’s training camp could, as billed, help her son find a job in the wildlife trade and that it would help Jonathan, who had been diagnosed with Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder and had reportedly left school after struggling in that environment, to have greater prospects in life.
“I sent my son on this course to make him a better man, to give him a better future,” said Wilma Buys to The Telegraph. “I trusted Alex de Koker with his life.”
What de Koker and staff did to Raymond, if witness testimony is proved accurate, is nothing less than torture.
The Torture of Raymond Buys: Forced to Eat His Own Feces, Electrocuted and Beaten
Gerhard Oosthuizen, 19, shared a tent with Buys at the camp. He told the Vereeniging District Court that Buys was physically weaker than many of the other boys and therefore was not able to perform many of the tasks, such as manual labor and military style training, that were asked of him. For this, he frequently earned punishments from the camp’s staff.
Oosthuizen told the court during an April hearing that Raymond Buys was chained to his bed every night after attempting to escape the camp. During that time, Oosthuizen claims, Buys was forbidden from going to the bathroom and as a result repeatedly soiled himself.
Oosthuizen also testified regarding one incident where Buys, after relieving himself in a field while — and I will borrow the phrase the Telegraph uses — “the recruits worked,” Buys was then made to eat his own feces.
On another occasion, Buys tipped over a washing powder container. Oosthuizen claims Buys was then made to eat the washing powder, reportedly vomiting foam as a result.
In his court testimony, Oosthuizen detailed how Buys was frequently beaten with various implements, including planks of wood, rods and plastic piping. He also recounted one occasion where de Koker and Erasmus allegedly strapped Buys to a chair, naked and with a pillowcase over his head, and electrocuted him with a stun gun, eliciting screams.
In addition to these claims, Wilma Buys says that she was denied access to and contact with her son. In fact de Koker, she claims, only allowed her three phone conversations with Raymond during the whole time he was at the camp, all of which had to be conducted on speakerphone.
It was, case details suggest, a matter of camp policy to turn over any mobile phones upon entry into the program. During a six week period of almost no communication, de Koker appeared to try to assuage Wilma Buys’ fears by sending her a picture of her son. He looked thin. A second picture and Wilma Buys believed Raymond looked emaciated.
Reports say she phoned de Koker and demanded to know what was happening. Mr de Koker claimed that Raymond was injuring himself.
In what appears to be a subsequent and monitored phone conversation, Wilma Buys asked her son why he would do such a thing, to which Raymond is said to have responded, “Mum, I’m not doing it to myself.”
Only a few days later, Buys received a call from de Koker in which she was told Raymond had been admitted to the hospital for tests. Wilma Buys reached the hospital to find that her son was close to dying.
As Buys would learn when she was contacted by the parents of another deceased child, this was not the first time de Koker and his staff faced accusations of murder.
Image credit: Thinkstock.
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