In a shocking reversal, the Supreme Court of Indonesia overturned the acquittal of Neil Bantleman, ordering the Canadian teacher back to prison for 11 years. Bantleman had been accused of sexually abusing school children – but our investigation first broadcast in January exposed serious flaws in the case against him. Bantleman and his wife Tracy were in search of adventure when they went to teach at a prestigious private school in Jakarta. But then came the horrifying accusation from a parent who believed her boy had been sexually abused by staff at the school. It set off a never-ending nightmare for the two Canadians. Bantleman was convicted of sex assault and served 13 months in jail until last August, when a lower court overturned his conviction. But now Bantleman finds himself condemned once again to a decade behind the bars – despite glaring problems with the evidence used to convict him.
- Original allegations were made against Bantleman and teaching assistant Ferdinand Tijong in March 2014
- Three key pieces of evidence that were used to convict Bantleman are seriously flawed, our investigation found
- One piece of evidence was a series of lab reports that seemed to prove one of the alleged victims, a five-year-old boy, had contracted herpes
- the fifth estate had the tests, including an additional test we had the alleged victim's mother have done on her son at a lab of our choosing, examined by an independent expert who said the tests were all negative
- Other pieces of evidence include a "secret room," and a "magic stone" and "blue potion" that Bantleman allegedly used on one victim to numb him before the assaults
NIGHTMARE IN INDONESIA
January 7, 2016
Crucial pieces of the evidence used to convict Canadian teacher Neil Bantleman of sexually assaulting young boys at a private school in Indonesia are seriously flawed.
"The things running through your head are: I'm Canadian, I'm a teacher, I'm going into a prison in Indonesia. Is this is a movie? Is this a nightmare?" Bantleman, 46, told the investigative program in Jakarta, in his first television interview.
Bantleman, a Burlington, Ont., native who used to teach at the Webber Academy in Calgary, was convicted and sentenced to 10 years in prison in April 2015 largely on the testimony of three kindergarten-age boys and little forensic evidence. His conviction was overturned last August, but his nightmare is far from over. The Indonesian justice ministry is determined to get Bantleman back behind bars and has filed an appeal of the most recent court decision. His passport has been revoked, leaving him stuck in Indonesia.
Herpes test key for case
The original allegations against Bantleman were made in March 2014 while he was teaching at the Jakarta International School (JIS), an upscale private school attended by children of diplomats, expatriates and wealthy Indonesians, and accused him and an Indonesian teaching assistant of sexually assaulting three kindergarten pupils some time between January 2013 and March 2014.
Perhaps the most emotionally compelling pieces of evidence in the case were lab reports that seemed to prove one of the alleged victims, a five-year-old boy, had contracted herpes.
The boy's mother, who goes by the name Pipit, had her son tested for the herpes virus a total of four times over a period of 19 months. She brandished one of those tests at a news conference in April 2014, insisting the test showed her son had tested positive for herpes. The results of the tests were entered into evidence in the case against Bantleman.
The fifth estate tracked down the boy's family at an undisclosed location in Europe.
"Yes, I believe my son was sexually assaulted by Neil Bantleman," Pipit told host Mark Kelley in an exclusive interview.
Pipit says doctors told her that her son could only have contracted the herpes virus by sexual intercourse.
Toronto specialist contradicts herpes findings
We obtained copies of all four lab reports from Pipit and showed them to Toronto-based infectious disease specialist Dr. Sumon Chakrabarti.
"Beyond a reasonable doubt, this child has not ever been exposed to herpes," Chakrabarti toldthe fifth estate.
The first two lab reports from hospitals in Indonesia indicated a positive result for what is called an IgM test.
The IgM test determines a patient's possible recent exposure to the herpes virus. But because of its high rate of false positives, the IgM test has been discontinued in most developed countries, including Canada.
A majority of infectious disease experts concur that another test, called IgG — which determines a patient's latent exposure to herpes — is the most accurate way to tell if someone is carrying the herpes virus.
The IgG test results on the first two lab reports of the boy were negative, and according to Chakrabarti, two subsequent tests, done approximately a year apart, also showed negative IgG results for herpes.
To clear up any remaining confusion, the fifth estate — with his mother's permission — had the boy undergo a final test for herpes at a reputable European laboratory. The results were definitive.
"This test is actually saying that herpes is negative," Chakrabati said, referring to the most recent test result. "The child has not been exposed to herpes."
But Pipit insists that the European experts got it wrong and she maintains her son does have the herpes virus.
Magic stones and potions
On June 13, 2014, police raided the Jakarta International School, combing the building looking for clues.
Pipit's son alleged he was attacked in a secret room near the staff lounge. He also said Bantleman used a magic stone and a blue potion to numb him before the assaults.
The fifth estate obtained a tape of the police search in the staff lounge. After extensive raids of the room, police found no evidence of a magic stone, a blue potion or secret room in the lounge. They did, however, find a blender that they claim was used to mix the potion. They found no DNA, fingerprints or witnesses to prove the boys were in the teacher's lounge.
After Bantleman's conviction, he and fellow accused Ferdinand Tjiong, a teaching assistant at JIS, were sent to Indonesia's Cipinang maximum security prison to serve their respective 10-year sentences.
Bantleman told the fifth estate about his time in prison.
"When I first arrived in Cipinang, I said to our cell leader, 'I am not guilty,'" Bantleman said. "And he's like, 'It doesn't matter.' And I remember his words, because he was right. 'Once you get to that point, you're guilty, so what are you going to do about it?' is what he said.
"When you go into the cell, there's seven or eight other guys in there, and you don't know what to do, where to sit, who to talk to, if you're going to make it that night. I mean you're going in with allegations that you abused children, this is the worst allegation that you can go into prison with. This is where you hear that, this is where you get your justice, or the street justice as they say, so yeah, we're terrified."