World / Crime & Legal

Prostitute goes on trial for slaying of U.S. diplomat in Johannesburg


The trial of a South African prostitute charged with murdering a U.S. diplomat, Christopher ‘Norm’ Bates, in January began this week in Johannesburg.

“The accused faces a murder charge,” Hurbetin Phindi Louw, a regional manager for South Africa’s National Prosecuting Authority (NPA), said in an emailed response to questions about the trial of Lorraine Mohapi. “The accused admits that she is a prostitute.”

Mohapi has pleaded self defense.

Bates was a U.S. consulate worker in Johannesburg. Mohapi agreed to have sex with him for 200 rand ($20), the local Star newspaper reported Thursday, citing trial proceedings.

“We’re following the court proceedings but we are not involved,” said Jack Hillmeyer, a Pretoria-based spokesman for the U.S. Embassy, in a phone interview. He said he could only comment on policy, not the case.

“We’re prohibited from purchasing commercial sex anywhere in the world, even in places where it is legal,” he said. “Department employees who violate these prohibitions can be subject to disciplinary action up to and including separation.”

Prostitution is illegal in South Africa.

Bates had been assigned as the information management officer at the consulate in Johannesburg since 2010, Hillmeyer said in a Jan. 14 statement. He’d worked for the U.S. Department of State for 11 years and had previously served at American embassies in Senegal, Kenya, and Lesotho.

Bates was discovered dead Jan. 13 at his housing complex in Illovo, an affluent area in the north of the city, with Mohapi, according to testimony, the Star reported. Mohapi claimed Bates had chased her with a baseball bat and that she had stabbed him in self-defense. She was found holding the alleged murder weapon, the newspaper said.

The NPA didn’t immediately respond to e-mails and phone calls requesting contact details for Mohapi’s lawyers. The Law Society of The Northern Provinces, which keeps details for lawyers who operate in Johannesburg, wasn’t open.

The trial is taking place at the South Gauteng High Court.

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