Criminal record? Thamsanqa Jantjie stands near President Barack Obama in Soweto
Criminal record? Thamsanqa Jantjie stands near President Barack Obama in Soweto Reuters

The interpreter accused of using nonsense sign language at Nelson Mandela's memorial service was also accused of serious crimes including murder, claim South African press.

According to reports, the controversial signer has faced a string of serious allegations dating back nearly 20 years.

eNCA reported police files which state Thamsanqa Jantjie was accused of murder, attempted murder, rape, kidnapping, theft, burglary and malicious damage. The alleged offences happened between 1994 and 2003.

If correct, it would raise serious questions about security at memorial event in Soweto and how Jantjie got a role which brought him to within inches of world leaders. Among the international dignitaries for whom he struggled to provide sign language was US President Barack Obama.

Jantjie came under the spotlight this week for annoying viewers with his inept performance on stage as a signer for the deaf audience. They accused him of signing meaningless gibberish, leading Jantjie to claim later he had suffered a "schizophrenic episode" and was "seeing angels" when it happened.

The media outlet reported that a case file lodged at South Gauteng High Court, detailing allegations of kidnap and attempted murder against Jantjie and others, was empty.

He did serve three years for a separate count of theft and was also cleared of rape, but Jantjie never faced trial for many of his alleged crimes because of his poor mental health.

According to eNCA, Jantjie was not commenting on the claims about the alleged past offences.