Drugs, apologies & a life sentence - Five chilling moments from Nicholas Ninow's court appearance

Nicholas Ninow was given a life sentence for raping a seven-year-old girl at a Dros restaurant.
Nicholas Ninow was given a life sentence for raping a seven-year-old girl at a Dros restaurant.
Image: Gallo Images/Phill Magakoe

Nicholas Ninow was handed a life sentence after being found guilty of raping a seven-year-old girl at a Dros restaurant in September 2018.

The case has dominated social media after Ninow testified in sentencing proceedings. His life story evoked some sympathy from South Africans while others said he deserved the harsh sentence.

From the effect on the victim to Ninow's grandmother speaking on his character, here's what unfolded.

Regrets, apologies 

Ninow told the court on Wednesday that while he was under the influence of drugs and alcohol when he raped the girl, he deeply regretted his actions. "It's something I have to live with every day, something that I can't take back."

He told the court that he acknowledges the pain he caused the little girl and that he deserves punishment for his actions. Ninow also apologised to his grandmother, his son and the victim. In a lengthy poem he penned to the victim, he said he apologises even if the victim never forgives him.

"Words can never describe how I feel. I would never be able to fix what I had done. She may never forgive, or forget the pain I would leave and for every regret, she'll awaken once again from the same bad dream.”

A child ruined by his mother 

Pauline Gericke, Ninow's grandmother, told the court that Ninow would not have harmed the child had his mother stayed away from him.

Gericke took Ninow in during what she described as a "chaotic" time in his life, but his mother ruined him when she exposed him to drugs at 13 years old, leading to an addiction Ninow has not been able to beat.

She also told the court that there were two sides to Ninow: the good side and the "aggressive" side, which comes out when he is on drugs.

"There is a side to Nicholas that I love, there's a side that I raised. I am not saying he should not be punished, but I believe there is another side to Nicholas. There are mitigating factors," she said.

A victim in constant pain 

Karen Botha, a social worker who assessed the victim and spoke to her family, told the court on Thursday that the victim still "sees" Ninow every night when she goes to bed. Botha described the victim as soft-spoken, anxious and nervous.

The child's mother told Botha that she fears her daughter will no longer trust her to protect her. She told Botha that both the victim and the mother want Ninow handed a life sentence. “The mother wants the accused to be handed a life sentence. The victim said he should be in jail to learn his lesson.”

The seven-year-old's maternal grandparents said she has become emotional and that her academic performance had dropped since being raped.

Ninow is scarred from a dysfunctional childhood

The court heard from psychologist Marina Genis that Ninow had a dysfunctional childhood and was a victim of physical and sexual abuse.

Genis, who assessed Ninow on two occasions, said Ninow suffered emotional neglect as a child, and that his own sexual abuse could have caused him to rape the child.

"The sexual abuse could have played a role in his behaviour. He was beaten with belts and fists. At age 14, he tried to commit suicide. He was diagnosed with bipolar [disorder]. At the age of 15 he attempted to commit suicide again," she said.

Life sentence 

Judge Papi Mosopa slapped Ninow with two jail sentences. A life sentence for rape and a five-year sentence for defeating the ends of justice and drug possession. Both sentences will run concurrently.

The sentencing followed a plea by Ninow's lawyer Herman Alberts who asked for a lighter sentence on grounds that his client's childhood was "highly unusual".

"You have a mother introducing her son to drugs. The damage done by the mother did not disappear. I have to concede he committed a very serious offence, but life imprisonment is an extreme sentence."