What makes ‘good boys‘ go bad?

Estelle Ellis
BOTH were raised with love and taught to pray, respect women and work hard. So what caused Adrian Saulse and his friend, Chainey Nelson, to commit a string of heinous crimes, including kidnapping, gang-rape and robbery?
The two young men, aged 21 and 22, were sentenced in the Port Elizabeth High Court yesterday to life in prison for attacking a couple at the Booysen Park Community Centre and gang-raping the woman.
They are also facing separate charges of murder, kidnapping and gang-rape stemming from a similar attack on another canoodling couple. In addition, Saulse is facing charges of armed robbery in connection with an incident in which the Addo Summerville Supply Store was robbed of R300000 last year.
Saulse and Nelson were both raised in middle-class homes by loving parents who said they were quiet and respectful children. Yet they have become two of Nelson Mandela Bay‘s most notorious criminals – described by judge Irma Schoeman as “particularly cruel” rapists.
And, after a trial in which he behaved like a model citizen, Saulse‘s true nature emerged after sentencing yesterday, when he spat in the face of a news photographer, while Nelson showed rude signs with both hands.
Social worker Heinrich Cronje, who was commissioned by Schoeman to compile a report on the two men, said Saulse‘s mother, Sylvia, had raised her son to believe in the power of prayer.
When Cronje visited Nelson‘s mother, Catherine, he also found a strong woman, desperate to keep her son on the right track.
So how did they turn into cold-blooded monsters, described by their rape victim as “just evil”?
This is what the families of the two men have been asking themselves following the gruesome testimony heard in the two-week trial.
In reports filed in court, Cronje said neither Saulse nor Nelson had taken responsibility for the crimes of which they were convicted, and insisted they were victims of mistaken identity.
Saulse was born and bred in Booysen Park. His mother is a teacher and his father, Matthew, a retired machine operator.
With his retirement money, Matthew bought a spaza shop that his son was supposed to manage.
Before his arrest, Saulse lived with his parents in a comfortable house. Sylvia described him as “a lively child” who enjoyed visiting friends, playing soccer and assisting with household chores, while Matthew said he did not believe in hitting children and tried to use positive communication to sort out conflict.
As a teenager, Saulse had followed “most of” the family rules but disappointed his parents by drinking and staying away from school. Saulse, who has a below-average intellect, decided to leave school in Grade 10. By then, his parents had already paid for him to see a psychologist and an occupational therapist for two years.
Yet he chose to hang out with his friends, played truant and started drinking. But Matthew said that despite these problems, his son “still had more positive qualities than challenging traits”.
“It seemed that Adrian rejected assistance from relevant sources, which caused him to self-destruct as his alcohol usage increased and (he became) involved in serious criminal matters,” Cronje told the court.
“Adrian now admits that in an effort to cope with his ongoing incarceration he has also become addicted to dagga and mandrax.”
When asked about his mother, Nelson told social workers she always tried to provide for him, wanted the best for him and gave him helpful guidance.
At the age of 14, he was incarcerated for nine months at the North End Prison for a “murder matter” but was eventually acquitted. Yet the gossip from the close-knit community followed him until he left to live with family in Oudts hoorn, where he tried to make a new life. Six months later, he returned.
He said he grew up in the church but later worked too hard to go regularly. However, he tried to apply Biblical values in his life.
Nelson had several learning difficulties, was teased mercilessly at school and eventually left the education system when he was in Grade 7. Since then, he had a stable work record as a carpenter.
His aunts described him as a “lovely child” – quiet and respectful. Catherine said she did not allow drinking in the house.
Meanwhile, the woman who was raped for six hours by the men, returned to court yesterday to confront her attackers. “I wanted to do this,” she said. “I hope they never get out of prison.”
She broke up with her boyfriend, Freddie Spogter, after the incident, ending a relationship of nine months, and now focuses only on work. Spogter told social workers he could not cope with his girlfriend‘s constant need to feel safe.
He also said he had been forced to flee his house in Booysen Park after receiving threats following his testimony. He did not attend court yesterday.
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