New medical evidence revealed by CBC’s the fifth estate challenges the legitimacy of the case against the Canadian teacher accused of sexually assaulting three kindergartners at an elite school in Jakarta, Indonesia.
The medical test results, coupled with a lack of physical evidence, add a further twist to Neil Bantleman’s ordeal, as he tries to prove his innocence in a court system he believes is biased against him.
“This is a complete miscarriage of justice and we will continue to fight until the truth comes out,” he says in the documentary “Nightmare in Indonesia,” which airs Friday at 9 p.m.
Bantleman was sentenced to 10 years in prison in April 2015. The 45-year-old Burlington native is out of prison after an acquittal for technical reasons. He cannot leave Indonesia while the Jakarta prosecutor’s office prepares an appeal.
“My husband, Neil, is innocent,” says Tracy Bantleman, his wife and a fellow teacher.
The case generated global headlines and heated condemnation of Indonesia’s justice system, even as the mother of one of the three alleged victims continues to insist her son was raped by Bantleman. A teaching assistant named Ferdinant Tjiong, and six janitors from Jakarta International School — a private institution of 2,400 students, attended by children of foreign diplomats, expatriates and local elites — were also accused.
Tests submitted in Bantleman’s trial by the mother, who goes by the name Pipit, showed her son had contracted the herpes virus. These tests, which she said proved the child had been raped, became crucial evidence in the case against Bantleman.
However, at the CBC’s request, Pipit agreed to have her son retested at a reputable European lab. That test came back negative, according to Dr. Sumon Chakrabarti, an infectious disease specialist in Toronto who reviewed the file for the fifth estate.
“Beyond a reasonable doubt this child has not ever been exposed to herpes,” he said. The new test retroactively proves the test used in court to convict Bantleman was a false positive, Chakrabarti said.
Pipit, who launched a $125-million lawsuit against the school, rejects the test results. She remains defiant. “People can call me crazy or crazy mom. I don’t care. But my son knows. . . I’m fighting for my son,” she told the fifth estate. She is now living with her son and husband in Europe.
The fifth estate reports that police could find no physical evidence to support Pipit’s son’s testimony that he was attacked in a secret room near the school’s staff lounge, and that Bantleman used a magic stone and blue potion to numb him before the attacks.
Police could not find the room, a stone or any evidence of a potion.
“The (police) couldn’t find any DNA, fingerprints, or any witnesses to prove the boys were ever inside the teacher’s lounge,” the fifth estate reporter Mark Kelly says.
According to the report, the rape accusations were met with a mob mentality, as parents became convinced that something terrible had happened at the school.
At first, Pipit accused the janitors — five men and one woman — of being part of a pedophile ring. She then expanded her accusations to include Bantleman and the teaching assistant.
She took her case public, appearing on a popular true-crime television show.
The janitors confessed, but only after they were tortured by police, according to interviews with the fifth estate. They later recanted their confessions.
The men were sentenced to eight years in prison, and the woman to seven.
Tim Carr, head of the school, hired a private investigator, who concluded the charges against Bantleman are false.
Pipit’s lawsuit against the school has been dismissed, but she denies she was ever motivated by financial gain.
“You know I have to face that every day. They call me liar; if they are here I’d kick their face,” she told the fifth estate.
The Office of the District Attorney for South Jakarta is preparing an appeal of Bantleman’s acquittal, and remains convinced he is guilty. Bantleman’s lawyer, Hotman Paris Hutapea, believes the weight of public opinion against him will interfere with his ability to get a fair trial.
“They have ignored all evidence in support of my husband,” said Tracy Bantleman. “It is a disgrace.”
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