UK
13/12/2013 11:07 GMT | Updated 23/01/2014 01:38 GMT

Mandela Sign Language Interpreter, Thamsanqa Jantjie, 'Faced Murder Charge'

The sign language interpreter at the Nelson Mandela memorial event who repeatedly signed gibberish as world leaders addressed the crowd has previously faced a charge of murder, according to reports.

Thamsanqa Jantjie, 34, was thrust into the spotlight after deaf people watching Tuesday's memorial service for Mr Mandela revealed he repeatedly signed "nonsense" during the four-hour ceremony.

Experts pointed out he repeatedly mimed the words 'prawn' and 'rocking horse'.

Jantjie, who justified his behaviour by saying he was schizophrenic and began to hear voices as he attempted to interpret the speeches, was reportedly charged with murder in 2003, as well as rape in 1994, theft in 1995, breaking into a house in 1997, malicious damage to property in 1998, and attempted murder and kidnapping in 2003.

According to Investigations by South African news broadcaster eNCA, Jantjie was acquitted on the rape charge, but he was convicted of theft for which he was sentenced to three years in prison.

It is unclear whether he has ever served a jail sentence but the revelations have raised serious questions about the security at the landmark event.

It is thought many of the charges against him, the earliest of which dates back to 1994, were dropped as he was deemed unfit to stand trial.

Mr Jantjie was acquitted on the rape charge, but he was convicted of theft for which he was sentenced to three years in prison. It’s unclear if he ever spent time in jail.

Court records reveal that the 2003 murder, attempted murder and kidnapping case against Mr Jantjie and other people, was referred to the South Gauteng High Court in 2004. It was finalised in November 2006, but the court file for the case is empty.

The South African government says it is aware of reports that he once faced a murder charge.