Hero PI's estate looted

2010-04-24 00:00

ABSA Bank has called in the police over the disappearance of computers, secret information and debugging equipment normally available only to government intelligence agencies.

The debugging equipment and secret investigation reports belonged to private investigator Raymond van Staden, the owner of Van Staden Forensic Services, who died a hero at Easter saving a drowning child.

Van Staden, a former member of “D Section” of the Internal Security Branch, worked as a spy and electronic surveillance expert for the top-secret unit, which operated undercover outside of South Africa.

He was an acknowledged authority on electronic surveillance and the author of numerous papers on the subject.

He was also known for his generosity and support for numerous charitable organisations. And he died a hero.

On Good Friday, he, and a senior manager from Absa Trust, Johan Nel, both died rescuing a drowning child at Amanzimtoti.

Van Staden was on his way to watch a movie when, on the spur of the moment, he decided to stop at the beach and collect mussels for supper. Noticing Nel and his son in trouble, Van Staden entered the dangerous surf.

By the time lifesavers arrived, the PI had slipped below the waves and drowned, after holding the child above the water for nearly 45 minutes.

An unprecedented motion by Jo-Ann Downs of the African Christian Democratic Party was accepted in the KZN Legislature praising Van Staden and Nel for their bravery and self-sacrifice.

But within hours of his death, rival PIs descended on Van Staden’s office, identifying themselves to his brother as business partners of Van Staden Forensic Services, and saying they needed to remove items for safekeeping.

Cellphones, laptops, computers and paper, as well as electronic records, were taken.

Days later, Van Staden’s desktop PC was returned with the hard drive vandalised.

Patrick Wadula, the communications director of Absa, confirmed that theft from the estate was reported to Absa 10 days ago, and charges have been laid and affidavits handed to Amanzimtoti police identifying people who illegally removed items.

Among them is Cape Town financial adviser Lyn May-Hammond who, 28 years ago, was a girlfriend of Van Staden. Asked to comment, she said she flew to Durban at the request of Van Staden’s brother to “help him with his brother’s affairs”.

Van Staden’s brother is not an heir nor an executor of his brother’s estate and had no legal right to dispose of the property.

Van Staden’s wife and sole heir, Carol Lane-Van Staden, said that apart from wiping the hard drive of his desktop PC clean, persons known to her also wiped clean every memory stick and even removed back-up copies of Van Staden’s address book and customer list.

“The destruction and theft of records is very serious, far more serious than most people can contemplate,” she said.

Van Staden’s laptop computer, which was fitted with sophisticated biometric security measures, remains missing, as does his cellphone and debugging equipment of the type normally only available to government intelligence agencies.

In the wrong hands, the debugging equipment could be used by criminals to defeat police or National Intelligence Agency surveillance.

Van Staden was contracted by Transnet to head its security and investigations department and it is widely known that he was on the trail of several criminal syndicates that specialise in stealing goods containers from Durban harbour. All records of this probe have now vanished.

He was also known to be well connected politically. Before Jacob Zuma’s election as president, he facilitated meetings with influential American businessmen. His private records are likely to contain information that could be valuable to industrial spies as well as rival politicians.

Police have been told that the computers and debugging equipment were taken from the estate by private investigator Johan du Plooy, a business partner of Van Staden in a separate venture called Temi Group. He was not a member of Van Staden Forensic Services, whose records and equipment he removed.

Van Staden’s company website is administered by Microdot Computers, run by Michelle du Plooy, Johan’s daughter. Now, e-mails sent to Van Staden’s company are being diverted to a website Johan du Plooy uses to attract work.

The Du Plooys ignored all

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