“I admit that I am sick, emotionally unstable, addicted to child pornography, and I have a tendency of being sexually attracted to boys and I need help.” These were the words of former police reservist Johann Wickus Maree (50), who stands accused of sexually assaulting under-aged boys and using them to produce pornography that was shared and sold on the internet.
Maree’s confession was read to him by state prosecutor Like Phelem during his bail hearing in the Windhoek Magistrate’s Court before magistrate Celma Amadhila yesterday. The confession dated 3 June 2020 gives graphic details of the sexual activities that Maree allegedly committed on and with under-aged boys.
Although he is questioning the authenticity of the confession, he did admit that the signature on the document is similar to his. “I object to the confession I made. I will explain later during the trial how and when I was forced to make that confession,” the accused said.
Maree is charged with eight counts of rape, eight counts of indecent assault, eight charges of committing an immoral act with a child under the age of 16, eight counts of trafficking in persons by recruiting minor boys to subject them to sexual exploitation, and eight charges of using children to create child pornography.
He has denied all charges thus far. The quinquagenarian testified that he has been operating an unregistered modelling company by the name of ‘Boy Idols’. Although he used to cater for all genders between the ages of six and 19, the company only ended up representing boys due to the high demand.
“There is a high demand internationally from clothing brands, manufacturers and production companies that deal with fashion publications,” explained Maree. He claimed to have sold the pictures with the consent of the children’s parents or guardians.
The income he generated as commission from the venture was not a lot for him to register the company, while he also made money from taking pictures during sports tournaments and other sporting activities, he added.
Maree confidently stated that the State does not have a strong case against him; they are only taking chances with the allegations. He furthermore indicated that he has already been convicted by the media and the public when they have not heard his side of the story, while he has not been convicted by the court.
He continued that he is not a flight risk as he knows the consequences of such an act, and if he is to be granted bail, he can afford to pay N$10 000. He definitely has no intention of fleeing as he was tipped off about the investigation in 2019 already and did not abscond at that time, the accused claimed.
The prosecution is, however, against his release from custody, citing it would not be in the interest of the public or administration of justice. Prosecutor Phelem indicated that the state has a strong case against Maree as there are 17 witness statements provided by the victims implicating him. There is also an online petition which has been signed by the international community, alongside Namibians, against his release on bail.
The State also fears that should he be released, there is a likelihood of him carrying out similar offences, and there is also a high chance of him interfering with witnesses. At the time of his arrest in April 2020, the police indicated that they had been carrying out an investigation in collaboration with The Netherlands police, the South African police and Interpol since 2019.
The police investigations centred around pornographic video recordings of minor boys which have been loaded to the “dark web” of the internet. The videos were allegedly connected to the username Maree.
The accused, who worked as a private investigator and sports photographer, was allegedly operating a website under the name ‘Boy Idols’. Through police investigations, it was discovered that Maree sold pictures of boys modelling clothes and swimwear.
According to the police, videos obtained through investigations show minors performing various sex acts in bathrooms. Other videos were filmed in toilets and swimming pools at sporting events in Windhoek. These videos were also allegedly sold on the internet.
The trial is ongoing.