EASTERN Cape cage fighting champion Ryan “The Lion” van Niekerk has been convicted of raping a 10-year-old girl between 2009 and 2010, and faces a minimum sentence of life behind bars.
On Friday, the East London Regional Court found him guilty on five counts of rape.
His bail was revoked and he was remanded pending sentencing next month.
Van Niekerk is the FightForce lightweight champion. He held a contract with Extreme Fighting Championship, the biggest Mixed Martial Arts club in Africa, but has since lost his sponsorship.
Magistrate Paul Pretorius gave defence attorney Frans Maritz a month to prepare for mitigation.
Van Niekerk was engaged to a family member of the victim at the time of the rapes.
He took her to the deserted East London prison grounds, where he sexually assaulted her in his vehicle almost every morning for about a year.
A tracking system in his company vehicle placed him at the secluded spot up to 19 times in one month. He also climbed through the girl’s bedroom window late at night and molested her while her family slept.
The girl, now 13, eventually told her parents about the rapes after her family and teachers began questioning her change in behaviour. Van Niekerk was arrested a month later and released on bail.
Van Niekerk had pleaded not guilty to all charges at the start of the trial in April.
Sentencing has been set down for August 23. Mumtaz Shabudin appears for the state.