Rapist's mum struggles to take in his evil crimes

Mum of Indonesian jailed for life in Britain says she kept begging him to return home

The mother of Britain's worst serial rapist Reynhard Sinaga said she repeatedly begged her son to return to Indonesia, but he refused, saying he was more comfortable living in Manchester, where he committed his horrific crimes.

Arriving in Britain in 2007, when he was 24, Sinaga lived on the money sent by his father, Mr Saibun Sinaga, a businessman who owns banking, plantation and property businesses.

In an interview with The Sunday Times in London, Sinaga's mother, Mrs Normawati, said she repeatedly begged him to return to succeed his father in the family businesses. "My husband is getting old. But Reynhard wanted to build a career as a lecturer. He didn't want to come back," she said.

"As the eldest, I told him, he should look after his baby brother, sisters and nieces. I was in tears when I said how I wanted him to be around the family. I reminded him how we celebrated Christmas at home.

"He was touched. I could see that in his eyes. But he kept refusing to come home. He said Indonesia was not a good place to live for him and he felt comfortable living in Manchester. I even threatened to stop sending him money."

Sinaga, 36, was sentenced last Monday to life imprisonment after he was found guilty of 159 offences, including 136 rapes.

For 2½ years, he prowled bars and restaurants in Manchester in search of young male victims.

Mrs Normawati said she struggled to believe the evil crimes her son had committed, and did not know that he was gay.

"We are a good Christian family who do not believe in homosexuality. He is my baby," she said.

Reynhard Sinaga was found guilty of 159 offences, including 136 rapes.

She said the family went to church every Sunday, where Sinaga would play the piano.

While in Britain, Sinaga worshipped at a liberal Anglican church close to his flat, even doing some volunteer work. Members of the church provided the court with a character reference.

Mrs Normawati described the eldest of her four children as a gentle boy who loved to bury himself in a book. "He didn't really go out much. He was more interested in studying," she told the Times.

Born in 1983 to a devout Catholic family, Sinaga spent his childhood in Jambi, a city on Sumatra Island, and studied at a Catholic elementary school there, before his family moved to Depok, a suburb some 45km from Jakarta, in Java.

A friend who went to the same private elementary school as Sinaga remembers him as "a smart student" who loved reading books, The Jakarta Post reported.

Sinaga earned his master's degree in planning and then sociology at the University of Manchester, graduating in 2011. He later pursued a PhD in human geography at the University of Leeds, working on a thesis on "Sexuality and everyday transnationalism among South Asian gay and bisexual men in Manchester", but failed.

Living just a few doors away from the popular Factory nightclub, on Princess Street in central Manchester, and a short distance from other clubs, Sinaga often went out after midnight to seek men in their late teens or early 20s who had been out drinking.


Approaching his prey on the street, he would act the good Samaritan by offering them a place to wait for friends or to charge a mobile phone. He lured about 190 victims to his apartment.

Prosecutors believe Sinaga drugged his victims using gamma-hydroxybutyric acid, better known as GHB or liquid ecstasy, or other substances with the same effect, and assaulted them while they were unconscious.

The case has shocked many in Indonesia, where a large number of people disapprove of homosexuality. Many have condemned his abuses as evil and depraved.

The University of Indonesia, where Sinaga earned his bachelor degree in architecture, denounced his acts as "insolent, illegal and inhumane" and expressed sympathy for the victims of his assaults.

Mr Koko, another friend of Sinaga's from elementary school, said Sinaga was often bullied by other students, who called him "bencong", a derogatory word for effeminate men or trans women.

"Some students bullied him because he often played with girls," Mr Koko told The Jakarta Post.

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on January 13, 2020, with the headline 'Rapist's mum struggles to take in his evil crimes'. Subscribe