By Lindsay Wong
Britain’s worst rapist is a highly privileged and educated international student from Indonesia. Over the course of just a few years, Reynhard Sinaga was found to have committed 159 sexual offences against at least 48 men. He was sentenced to life imprisonment in early January and given 88 concurrent life sentences. Many were shocked that this privileged and educated man, who had a proper upbringing in a loving family, could commit such terrible crimes.
Execution of his Crimes
36-year-old Sinaga lived as an openly gay man in Manchester, where he attended university, and had many boyfriends. He lived near Manchester’s Gay Village, where he was able to express his sexuality in a way that he wasn’t able to back home in Indonesia.
After a night out, Sinaga would pick up his victims from outside clubs and lure them back to his apartment. He acted as the Good Samaritan and offered his victims a place to wait for their friends or charge their phones. Back at his flat, he would drug his victims with liquid ecstasy and raped them while they were knocked out. He filmed the attacks on his smartphones and later boasted about them on Whatsapp.
Some of Sinaga’s victims had been raped up to eight times in one night. The date rape drug he had used made them unaware that they had been raped when they woke up the next day. Furthermore, according to his friends, he had a habit of “turning” heterosexual men and treated it like a hobby.
The police have evidence that Sinaga targeted 190 victims in total, mostly students, although there was also a chef, personal trainer, and two members of the armed forces. Their ages ranged from 18 to 36 years old.
Sinaga’s former roommates knew that he had a predatory side. According to them, living with him was “hard” – a former roommate referred to his bedroom, noting that it was “disgusting in there”. Sinaga was highly narcissistic and frequently hogged the bathroom, spending hours in front of the mirror to fix his highlighted hair. He also firmly believed that the world could not exist without him. Even his PhD thesis, which he failed to complete, was evidence of this: titled “Sexuality and everyday transnationalism among South Asian gay and bisexual men in Manchester”, it was essentially just an autobiography.
During the trial, Sinaga felt absolutely no remorse towards his crimes as he kept insisting that he was not guilty and his victims consented to sex. He has refused to cooperate with investigations for the next two years.
Living a “Double Life” and his Desire to Stay Overseas
At the time of his initial arrest, Sinaga was still in the closet with his parents. Born into a conservative Christian family, his mother found it hard to come to terms with his sexuality after finding out for the first time when he was arrested. While living as an international student in England, Sinaga found freedom that he never experienced whenever he was at home, and was able to live freely as a gay man without pretending to be someone else.
Growing up in a conservative, religious household meant weekly visits to church. Sinaga also volunteered regularly and played the piano. He had strong family ties and a good relationship with his siblings; his schoolmates described him as “friendly” and “easy to get along with”.
However, Sinaga had a rough relationship with his father, who often tried to set him up with Indonesian girls from privileged families. A palm oil tycoon with a multi-industry empire in banking and property, it was his wealth that allowed Sinaga to live comfortably as an international student for more than 10 years.
Even though his mother begged Sinaga to return home to take over the family business, he insisted on staying overseas because he wanted to build a career as a lecturer and continue living freely. Sinaga moved to the UK after his graduation from the University of Indonesia in 2006, and then earned his master’s degree in planning, and then sociology, at the University of Manchester. He was pursuing a PhD in human geography at the time of his arrest.
Privileged Background and Upbringing
Netizens are puzzled that an educated man like Sinaga, who is from a wealthy background and had a loving upbringing, could’ve committed such heinous crimes. Then again, Adolf Hitler, Pol Pot, and Joseph Stalin – three of history’s most notorious figures who killed millions of people – were also described as being “friendly”, “soft-spoken”, and “calm” before becoming the criminals we know today. Sinaga simply took advantage of his opportunities and acted on his evil intentions, despite having a life that was envied by many.
Many Indonesians felt that Sinaga had brought shame to their country, and the Indonesian LGBT community has unfortunately faced backlash because of this incident. This case caused people to question the link between crime and privilege. There have been multiple high profile cases involving privileged men and sexual assault – remember Brock Turner? Even in Singapore, sexual assault perpetrators who have gotten away with their crimes because they had the “opportunity to excel in life” were also privileged men. This just goes to show that even if someone grows up in an ideal lifestyle, their path in life might not be influenced by their background or upbringing at all – it could stem from a deeper, hidden desire.