A South African woman said she was raped in a taxi last year at gunpoint. Because the attack occurred at night, she couldn't see what the men looked like. So when police arrested two suspects, they had an usual request for the victim: sniff the men out of a lineup, South Africa's Independent Online reported.
The victim agreed. She was guided down the lineup of men while she sniffed each one of their chests. And it may have worked: the Star reported that the woman correctly identified two of her alleged attackers by their odor.
South Africa has one of the highest incidences of rape in the world, with some 65,000 rapes and other sexual assaults reported last year, or 127.6 per 100,000 people in the country.
But police estimate that only 1 in 36 rapes is reported, and of the reported cases, only 15 percent result in a conviction.
South Africa's justice minister said last month that 58 dedicated sexual offenses courts will be opened by September to help deal with the crisis.
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The suspects identified recently by smell have since appeared in court. It is not clear, however, what has happened in the case since the initial court proceedings, MSN reported.
But identifying attackers by their odor isn't as rare as one might think. In November of last year, several women in Arizona had said they were raped by a man that had a sweaty, pungent body odor. Police later made an arrest based in part on that description, ABC15 reported. The police wrote in their arrest report that “this body odor was also something that both sexual assault victims had said that the perpetrator had."
Senior Correspondent Erin Conway-Smith contributed reporting from Johannesburg. Follow her on Twitter @ejcs.