Sex abuser to go free

Ronald Van Der Plaat
Ronald Van Der Plaat

A man who kept his daughter as a sex slave for 23 years will walk free from jail in the next few days because he can't be kept behind bars for his entire sentence.

Ronald Van Der Plaat, 76, was sentenced to 14 years' imprisonment in November 2000 after being found guilty of representative charges of rape, sexual violation and indecent assault.

The jury at Auckland High Court heard he abused his daughter for 23 years.

Tanjas Darke
Tanjas Darke

But Van Der Plaat was only tried for the nine years the offences happened in New Zealand, after he and his daughter moved here from Vanuatu in 1983.

At the time the former Auckland antiques trader was jailed, legislation made it mandatory for offenders to be released after serving two-thirds of their sentence.

A Parole Board spokesman told Sunday News that, while the Department of Corrections was now able to apply to keep some offenders in jail beyond the end of their sentences, Van Der Plaat "did not meet the statutory criteria for an application and was therefore required to be released by law".

Van Der Plaat's sickening abuse has shocking similarities to Austrian Josef Fritzl, who kept his daughter locked in a cellar under his house for almost 24 years.

Van Der Plaat gave his daughter, Tanjas Darke, a sexually transmitted disease before she was 12, and made her pregnant. She miscarried the child.

While sex abuse victims are granted automatic name suppression, Tanjas got her suppression order overturned and went on to write an autobiography Flight of the Dancing Bird. She also recounted her life story in TV documentary To Hell and Back. Tanjas was plied with alcohol and drugs by her father before he raped her.

She was given an overdose of sedative Mandrax when they were in the Solomon Islands. She suffered irreparable heart damage and had to be fitted with a pacemaker.

Van Der Plaat was left to raise Tanjas on his own in 1969 when she was nine and started abusing her. For the next 23 years, he used her as his sex slave.

Among the degradation Van Der Plaat submitted his daughter to was tying her ankles to the ceiling of their home in Te Atatu, west Auckland, and performing acts described by sentencing judge Justice Tony Randerson as "indescribable cruelty".

"She said she felt she had no option because of his control of her and because of the fear that he would punish her physically if she did not consent," the judge said in his summing up.

Van Der Plaat took a series of sadistic photos of his naked daughter and took pleasure in the pain he inflicted on her.

He put her head in a specially-built wooden box which he padlocked as he had sex with her and also poured hot wax on her naked body.

"He starting tying me up, hanging me upside down from the ceiling ... wax in my ears, blindfolded, gags over my mouth ... he would beat me up ... put hot wax on me ... he would put miniature bulldog clips all over me," Tanjas later said.

Throughout the ordeal, he portrayed their relationship as a normal loving father/daughter one.

Van Der Plaat, a former counsellor with Lifeline, even "married" his daughter when she was 16. He gave her a ring, hosted a mock wedding ceremony and made her stop calling him "daddy". Instead, he insisted that she call him "Ron". Tanjas was also forced to move into his bedroom.

Shortly after Van Der Plaat's conviction, Tanjas said: "He was absolutely obsessed with sex – that's all he thought about."

Tanjas eventually escaped from her father when she was 32, aided by an acquaintance of a man she later went on to marry.

The pair initially hid in Taupo, before moving to Germany. While in that country, Tanjas contacted New Zealand police about her horrific ordeal.

Van Der Plaat was arrested in 1999. Officers discovered hundreds of pornographic photos of Tanjas, as well as handcuffs, padlocks and bondage equipment.

His Te Atatu house also had holes in the ceiling, from where Tanjas had been tied.

Van Der Plaat was born in Holland and moved to New Zealand in 1958, where he met Tanjas' mother Charlotte Starvers.

Her last known location was New Caledonia.

Starvers stood by her ex-husband, and visited him in prison once a year. She also helped pay his legal bills.

Van Der Plaat lodged an unsuccessful civil case against his daughter in 2002. He claimed Tanjas allegedly tried to defraud him after she claimed ownership of a painting he had earlier sold at auction for about $33,000.

Josef Fritzl fathered seven children with one of his daughters after keeping her as his sex slave in a basement under his house in Amstetten, Austria.

He and his wife fostered three of the children, three remained with their mother in their 60sqm basement, while one died soon after birth.

Fritzl burned the baby's body in an incinerator and scattered the ashes in the garden of his house. Last year he pleaded guilty to murder by negligence, rape and incest and was sentenced to life imprisonment in a mental institution.

Sunday News