With a sheet of paper hiding his face, Sergei Pastouchenko shuffled out of the courtroom to begin a seven-year prison sentence for raping a primary-school girl. Minutes earlier, his application for bail pending appeal failed as magistrate Gaseitsiwe Tonoki ruled to allow the prosecution time to study and respond to the defence’s papers.
The lawyers will return to court on an unusual day for court (next Saturday morning) for the bail application hearing. Tonoki, who was transferred to Francistown in the middle of the trial, came to Broadhurst magistrate court on Friday, especially for Pastouchenko’s case. He said that he could not squeeze the bail hearing into a normal weekday schedule due to a cumbersome workload at his new work station.
As in previous appearances, Pastouchenko could not muster enough courage to face press cameras. After court adjourned, he dilly-dallied in the foyer, conversing in a hushed voice with his lawyer, Edward Fashole-Luke II, a Russian translator and a plainclothes police officer in a bright-colours get-up and dark glasses. The condemned man finally came out after what seemed like eternity. In one hand he held a beverage the prison canteen doesn’t serve. Moving at stately speed he was steered towards an unmarked car whose destination from court was an open secret.
Pastouchenko case has drawn a lot of public interest, which has largely been fuelled by extensive media coverage. A group of people mobbed the car to take last glimpses of the Russian as he sat inside sipping from a super-sized can of Coke. Among them was the lady who had reported him to the police and thereby sealed his fate.
Grim-faced, Pastouchenko locked eyes with the woman and failing to stare her down, held up his hand and greeted her with the international middle finger gesture.
Some 30 minutes earlier, the lady had been involved in a shouting match with Pastouchenko’s girlfriend, a young Motswana woman with whom the Russian has a child. Balancing her First World supermodel frame on skyscraper heels after a quick interview with GBC TV, the girlfriend made a point of sashaying too close to a knot of people who included the victim’s immediate family. In a deliberately loud enough voice, she made some remark that the family members took great offence to as she passed by.
Some of those people had listened to the TV interview and were still smarting from what she had said. She had protested Pastouchenko’s innocence, fervently arguing that if he were as depraved as the court believed, he would have molested her own child who is about the same age as the victim.
The whistle-blower got very angry and had to be held back by one man closest to her who seemed to fear that she might take the confrontation to the less verbal Level Two.
The shouting match was finally broken up by a court security guard but not before there had been a healthy exchange of some very ripe language. At one point, an elderly woman on the anti-girlfriend side used the three-word Setswana phrase for sodomy, suggesting as she did that instead of the minor, Pastouchenko’s girlfriend should have been the recipient.
Pastouchenko finds himself in hot soup after he raped a minor whose mother he was also boyfriend to.
Evidence led in court is that, on occasion, he would drive mother and daughter to a bush in the Broadhurst Industrial area in Gaborone. He would then take the child to a deserted spot and sodomise her while the mother waited in the car, in some cases drinking alcohol he had supplied.
The alarm was raised by a neighbour whose own child was the victim’s playmate. After a close brush with the Sir Seretse Khama International Airport police who were investigating the matter, the culprit went into hiding. Following a tip-off, the police smoked him out of a corporate housing complex in Gaborone West where he had been holed up for more than a month. After the arrest there was an identification parade at which Pastouchenko was positively identified by the victim.