Psychiatrist’s rape trial to continue in November
by Werner Menges
July 16, 2019
THE trial of a Swakopmund psychiatrist charged with having drugged and raped one of his patients near the end of 2015 is scheduled to continue in the Windhoek High Court in November.
Dr Pieter van der Westhuizen’s trial was postponed to 11 November on Thursday last week, after the husband of the woman he is accused of having raped completed his testimony as a state witness in the psychiatrist’s trial.
Van der Westhuizen (62) denied guilt on three counts of rape, a charge of indecent assault, and a charge of attempted murder, alternatively using drugs to overpower a woman so that he could have unlawful intercourse with her, at the start of his trial before acting judge Eileen Rakow two weeks ago. All the charges are based on allegations that he sexually assaulted one of his female patients in his consulting rooms at Swakopmund on 7 November 2015.
In a 31-page plea explanation that was provided to the judge after Van der Westhuizen gave his pleas, he claimed that the complainant in the case acquired “a false memory of indecent assault and rape” as a result of a past experience of childhood sexual abuse, combined with the effect of medication that she took as part of a session of drug-assisted psycho-analysis known as narco-analysis during her visit to his consulting rooms on 7 November 2015. The complainant was the first prosecution witness to testify in the trial. She testified behind closed doors, giving her testimony through a video link from a room adjacent to the courtroom to avoid having to face Van der Westhuizen in person while she gave evidence. One of Van der Westhuizen’s defence lawyers, South African senior counsel Stephen Farrell, on Monday last week questioned her on his client’s version that she had a “false memory” about the alleged incident. Such a false recollection, Farrell explained to her, simply meant that what she believed to be true in fact did not happen.
The complainant responded: “It did happen. […] What happened, happened. I am not making up anything. I do not have a false memory because I know what I know.”
Earlier in her testimony, she also told the court that she had gone through hell after the experience she had in Van der Westhuizen’s consulting rooms. He destroyed her life as it was, and she would never again be the woman she had been before, she said.
The complainant’s husband told the court his wife was in a bad emotional state when she arrived home from her visit to the psychiatrist at Swakopmund.
Having spent the first two days after her return home crying and sleeping, his wife then informed him four days after her appointment with Van der Westhuizen that he had raped her, the husband said. The court has also heard that the complainant was sexually abused as a child, as claimed by Van der Westhuizen.
According to the complainant, she had been seeing a psychiatrist to get help for debilitating anxiety attacks that she began to experience after she had been robbed at knifepoint in 2008.
The trial is scheduled to continue during the two weeks from 11 to 22 November, and then during the week from 2 to 6 December.
Van der Westhuizen, who was first charged in November 2016, is free on bail of N$10 000. Farrell is representing him on instructions from Pretoria lawyer Gerhardt van der Merwe.
State advocates Felistas Shikerete-Vendura and Palmer Kumalo are representing the prosecution.