How the monster almost got away
Jacques Steenkamp, City Press
Polokwane - In their massive manhunt for the “monster of Modimolle”, the police more than once traced the wrong person.
This happened while Johan Kotzé was hiding in the bushes only about 4km from the local police station for more than a week.
City Press has learned that after a court order was obtained last week to trace Kotzé’s cellphone signal, the police apparently traced an 071 number instead of Kotzé’s 074 number.
Police members apparently followed a person in the Free State for a few days before they discovered their mistake when they wanted to pounce on him but realised he wasn’t Kotzé.
Limpopo police spokesperson Brigadier Hangwani Mulaudzi said everyone was looking for Kotzé and members of the police were under great pressure to apprehend him.
“Mistakes occur in any investigation, and these officers were working 24 hours a day to arrest all the suspects.
We received many calls from people throughout South Africa who had seen Kotzé. In one instance, police members saw a white Toyota Fortuner with Free State registration plates. Those members went for it, but it wasn’t him,” Mulaudzi said.
He said they were really proud of the arrests and hard work that went into the investigation.
Lieutenant Colonel Malesela Mogale, the police station commander in Modimolle, accompanied City Press to the site where Kotzé had allegedly been hiding.
He said they never thought of looking for Kotzé so close to the town, and one of his policemen drove past the place every day.
Kotzé was arrested at about 11:45 on Wednesday at the house of his friend, Dirk van der Merwe, in Schoeman Street, Modimolle after being seen at a local shop at about 20:00 the previous evening.
Ali Akbar, 29, the owner of the shop, said he thought Kotzé was someone who had just come in to quickly buy a few things after a long day’s work.
Fortunately one of Akbar’s customers recognised Kotzé when he came in to buy water, tins of corned beef and cold drinks.
“He was doing his shopping calmly and wasn’t at all nervous. The woman phoned the police, who arrived here only five minutes after he had left. I didn’t know who he was,” Akbar said.
It’s not known where Kotzé was when the police did a careful search of Modimolle and the surrounding bush, nor how he came from the other side of town on foot without anyone seeing him.
Van der Merwe, a dental technician, said it was a great shock when he turned around at the laboratory next to his house and found himself face-to-face with Kotzé.
“I had taken my pistol and was looking for him myself the previous day when I heard he was in Modimolle. I didn’t find him. When he arrived at my house, I didn’t know whether he was armed and was going to shoot me or not.”
Van der Merwe confirmed that Kotzé took some blank pages out of a notebook of his shortly before Kotzé tricked his estranged wife, Ina Bonnette, 42, into seeing him last Tuesday.
“I told him on that day to write out a nice story for her,” Van der Merwe said.
City Press understood that the police found two pages at the scene in which Kotzé apparently outlined his grisly deeds and a “hitlist” containing the names of Bonnette’s daughter and her parents, whom he apparently also wanted to murder.
“Ina’s parents realised something was wrong when neither she nor Conrad [her murdered son] answered their cellphones, but they received calls from Kotzé. They didn’t answer them,” Van der Merwe said.
Mulaudzi said he couldn’t confirm or deny the contents of the pages or the existence of a “hitlist”.