Fiona: the search continues

2014-12-18 00:00

THE search for Fiona Harvey in a cold case mystery spanning decades continues unabated as the anniversary of her disappearance ­approaches.

In an abduction linked to one of the country’s most notorious ­paedophiles, Gert van Rooyen, ­Fiona has never been seen again.

Her last steps on December 22, 1988, through the leafy suburb of Clarendon on an errand to buy milk for her mother remain etched in the memory of the city.

While the trail has long since gone cold, and Van Rooyen took his secrets to the grave in a bloody ­suicide as police closed in on him, a pair of veteran detectives continue their quest to find Fiona.

Swathes of witness statements, dockets and telexes from a time past lie with Major Mike van Aardt, the lead investigator in the now concluded Oscar Pistorius case.

A team under his command remain ardent to trace six missing girls thought to have been abducted by Van Rooyen and his girlfriend ­Joey Haarhoff in the late eighties.

In an exclusive interview, Van Aardt told The Witness that their probe would not be stopped until they bring closure to the families of the missing girls.

Their investigation revealed that Van Rooyen had stalked the streets of Pietermaritzburg for weeks.

“The string of abductions changed the country. It was a time when people thought that their children were safe and Gert van Rooyen changed all of that. The abduction of Fiona Harvey changed Pietermaritzburg forever,” he said.

Using modern-day forensic tools and profiling patterns, the team have a solid belief that Van Rooyen had snatched Fiona as she walked home on a clammy summer’s day.

“She had gone to the shop to buy milk and she never returned. We fully believe that Gert van Rooyen was responsible for her disappearance … A vehicle which we have identified as his bakkie was spotted in the neighbourhood.

“Our investigation revealed that he spent a lot of time doing contract construction work in Howick and thus had key knowledge of the area. He was not a stranger and he knew the area well,” the officer said.

He said that witnesses had ­directly linked Van Rooyen to Fiona’s abduction.

“His bakkie was described in ­detail, down to the signage for a construction company on the doors and the roof racks on top of the canopy,” Van Aardt said.

He told of how the sex predator had used his young girlfriend ­Haarhoff as a lure in the kidnappings that followed the disappearance of Fiona.

“He used Haarhoff as a disguise and her presence alone is something that we believe helped him evade policeman who were searching for the child predator.

“Police officers around the country were on the lookout for a seedy looking sexual predator who had been snatching young girls and when they encountered this couple that looked completely normal, they were never given a second glance.

“At one point, they were stopped by a traffic policeman in KZN for speeding and Van Rooyen even bargained with the man in an effort to get out of a ticket,” he said.

“Anyone who has factual information must please come forward and we will probe any lead.

“The ­cases remain open and we have not stopped searching,” he added.

• jeff.wicks@witness.co.za

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