Reynhard Sinaga: Father of rapist says ‘punishment fits his crimes’

By Endang Nurdin & Rebecca Henschke
BBC Indonesian

Media caption,
Who is Reynhard Sinaga? The BBC's Judith Moritz reports on the case

The father of Reynhard Sinaga, the worst rapist in British legal history, has said his son's punishment "fits his crimes" after he was jailed for life.

Sinaga, a 36-year-old PhD student from Indonesia, was found guilty of 159 sexual offences against 48 men.

He picked up his victims outside clubs in Manchester and lured them to his flat, where he drugged and assaulted them while filming the attacks.

On Monday, a judge jailed Sinaga for life, with a minimum term of 30 years.

As Sinaga's family and friends come to terms with his fate, they have painted a picture of his life in Indonesia before he became a serial sexual predator.

Speaking for the first time since his son was jailed, his father Saibun Sinaga told BBC Indonesian over the phone: "We accept the verdict. His punishment fits his crimes. I don't want to discuss the case any further."

Sinaga's friends at the University of Indonesia say he was a flamboyant and popular student.

"He was very social, friendly, easy to get along with and fun to work on projects with," one friend, who wished not to be named, said.

She lost contact with him when he went abroad to continue his studies in the UK in 2007.

Image source, Facebook
Image caption,
After completing a degree in architecture at the University of Indonesia, Sinaga moved to the UK in 2007

Sinaga is said to have fallen in love with the city of Manchester and told his family that he wanted to live in Britain forever.

Living close to Manchester's Gay Village, he was able to express his sexuality openly in a way that was impossible to do back in Indonesia.

The oldest of four children, Sinaga was born in 1983 into a conservative Christian family, part of the Batak tribe from the island of Sumatra.

His father is a wealthy businessman, who owns several branches of a private bank.

It was his father's money that allowed Sinaga to be a perpetual fee-paying international student for more than 10 years, up until his arrest on 2 June 2017. Sinaga's father also financed his flat on Princess Street, in the heart of Manchester's city centre.

Image source, Greater Manchester Police
Image caption,
Sinaga lured his male victims back to his flat, where he drugged and assaulted them

His mother was the only member of the family to attend one of Sinaga's trials. She came to the first pre-trial hearing, but was not present for any of the four trials her son insisted on putting his victims through by pleading not guilty.

She did, however, write a character witness statement, which was presented in his defence.

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Greater Manchester Police say anyone who believes they may have been attacked by Sinaga can report information online or call their police line on 0800 092 0410 from inside the UK or 0207 158 0124 from abroad.

The force says anyone in need of support from specialist agencies can call 0800 056 0154 from within the UK or 0207 158 0011 from abroad.

"His family describe him as a good, very bright, religious boy who was a regular churchgoer," said Gulfan Afero, a consular official at the Indonesian embassy in London.

When sentencing him to life in prison, Judge Suzanne Goddard QC noted the reference and said directly to Sinaga that his family "know nothing of your true nature".

Police say they have evidence Sinaga targeted at least 190 victims in total. Further potential victims have come forward following his sentencing by contacting a dedicated helpline.

Indonesia 'shamed'

In Indonesia, news of Sinaga's crimes has elicited shock and anger.

The story has gone viral, and on Monday, Sinaga became a trending topic when news of his sentencing broke. His family home has been swamped by the media.

Image source, Facebook
Image caption,
A judge said Reynhard Sinaga would "never be safe to be released"

Many Indonesians took to social media to say Sinaga had brought shame on the country in the eyes of the world. Some called for him to face the death penalty (abolished in Britain in 1965).

Others in Indonesia questioned his mental state on social media. But Mr Afero, who met Sinaga during the trial, said he was in a sound state of mind.

"I met him three times in prison and he looked happy, healthy and calm," Mr Afero said. "He understands what he's facing and he showed no remorse because he insists he is not guilty. Therefore, he doesn't feel any burden."

The judge dismissed Sinaga's defence that his victims had consented to sex with him, calling it "ludicrous" and "nonsense".

Indonesians have also taken note of the processes in place in the UK to protect rape victims, such as psychological counselling and anonymity in media reports.

"Take note of the way in England the victims are given counselling and trauma healing, while in Indonesia rape victims are always blamed and shamed!" wrote one person on social media.

Another said: "See, here they are not saying the victims were wearing 'too-sexy clothes'."

Fears of backlash

For Indonesia's LGBT community, Sinaga's case could not come at a worse time.

While homosexuality is not illegal in Indonesia, in recent years there has been a wave of rising intolerance and hatred directed towards the community. On social media, some people have been accused of posting homophobic slurs in response to news articles about Sinaga's case.

Image source, Greater Manchester Police
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CCTV footage of Sinaga near his flat was used as evidence at his trials

Gay rights activist Hartoyo told the BBC he feared the case "may be used by intolerant groups to push for criminalisation or further attacks on the gay community".

"Even though it's clear that this is a criminal case that has nothing to do with the perpetrator's sexuality. This is about an evil person and I hope the local media makes that clear," he said.

Like many people in Indonesia and Britain, Hartoyo said he was struggling to "understand why [Sinaga] did it", adding he was "deeply shocked and horrified by the crimes".

Indonesian officials say they have no evidence that Sinaga committed sexual assault or rape before moving to the UK.

Additional reporting by BBC Indonesia's Raja Eben Lumbanrau