Johannesburg – Fugitive Gerhard Ackerman wanted for more than 700 sex offences involving children has been arrested after members of the public spotted him in Florida and called the police.
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Commenting on the swift arrest, Director of Public Prosecutions in the Gauteng Local Division, Advocate Andrew Chauke said: “The role played by the South African media in his apprehension must be applauded”.
Advocate Chauke added: “The images circulated by the media led to members of the public spotting Ackerman in Florida, in the west of Johannesburg.
“They immediately arrested him and called the local South African Police Service (SAPS) officials who acted swiftly to effect the warrant of arrest.”
The warrant of arrest was issued after Ackerman failed to appear in court.
The suspect also failed to comply with a court order to furnish the state with a medical certificate by Friday, 27 January 2023.
The accused made matters worse for himself, in that, contrary to his bail conditions, Ackerman moved from his place of residence without informing the investigating officer.
The accused’s failure to comply with court orders and breaches of his bail conditions prompted the National Prosecuting Authority (NPA) to approach the court with an urgent application to revoke his bail.
Ackerman faces 740 charges ranging from rape, attempted murder, distribution of child porn, and human trafficking of minor children for sexual exploitation.
“The trial against him is set to continue in the High Court of South Africa Gauteng Local Division, Johannesburg as previously scheduled before his disappearance,” said Phindi Mjonondwane, Gauteng NPA Spokesperson.
“Advocate Chauke extends his gratitude to members of the public for their vigilance that led to the apprehension of Gerhard Ackerman, following the warrant of arrest that was issued by the high court.”
Despite the swift arrest of the accused, the NPA came under criticism from the group Women And Men Against Child Abuse (WMACA).
“It is our opinion that the NPA should have submitted an application to have his bail revoked at the last court hearing given the weight of the charges against him,” said WMACA.
“In retrospect, Ackerman should have never been granted bail in the original case in the Alexandra Magistrate Court.
“When the matter in Alex appeared before the court, he already had prior offenses and other pending matters against him.
“This should have been indicative of his non-eligibility for bail in the first place.”
WMACA said the case in question again highlights the distorted human rights issue in “this country”.
“The rights of the offenders are trumping the rights of the victims by far, and we have made no progress toward recognizing the supremacy of the rights of victims in the system,” lamented WMACA.
“It appears the rich and powerful are even more so immune to the might of the law, as we do not believe Ackerman would’ve received bail had it not been for the influence of his co-accused, Paul Kennedy.
“We are appalled at Gerhard Ackerman’s attempt to escape the hands of justice, which to us is a clear admission of guilt.”
WMACA, a non-profit child protection organisation that fights for the rights of children, said it will continue tracking developments in this case.