Killing Kebble: An exposed underworld
THE POLICE RADIO CRACKLED TO LIFE as an urgent alert was sent through from the 10111 call centre. It was easily recognisable above the din of the busy restaurant in the Balfour Park shopping centre near Highlands North in Johannesburg. ‘023 Alpha. Suspected hijacking in Melrose. Two people shot.’ The two police reservists, dressed in full uniform, threw down their dinner and ran for the parking lot and their marked cop car. It was 21:15 on a Thursday night and their shift had been uneventful thus far. Little did they know that they would be the first two people on the scene of a murder that would rock the country.
One of the reservists, who was a Constable stationed at Sandringham police station in September 2005, has recounted the events of that night to me on condition of anonymity. I will call him ‘Constable’.
Constable and his partner arrived on the Melrose bridge crossing over the M1 highway within minutes of receiving the call on his radio. On their arrival, they found a silver Mercedes Benz, which had come to rest with its nose crumpled against the barrier. The driver was dead – his shirt was ripped open and he was covered in blood. His body was leaning over onto the passenger side of the vehicle, his full weight resting on his left elbow. The driver’s window was rolled down – a peculiarity on a chilly night in a city known to have one of the highest hijack rates in the world. The initial call centre alert had instructed that two people had been shot, but when Constable inspected the scene there was no other potential victim in sight. In fact, the scene was dead quiet. There were no passing pedestrians and no other cars travelling the route except for a second police car that arrived from the Sandton side of the overpass, almost simultaneously. It also seemed as though no paramedics had been on the scene at all. ‘I always wonder who called in the incident,’ Constable confides. ‘There was not one person on the scene and the victim was dead, there was no two ways about it.’
It would later emerge that two people did drive past the scene of Brett’s Kebble’s murder but did not stop – one was an attorney by the name of David Khan who has offices in Norwood. The other, incredibly, was Anthony Crane, Hazel Crane’s son. By sheer coincidence, he was one of the very first people to spot the mining tycoon lying lifeless in his car just a few hundred metres from where his own mother had been assassinated less than two years previously. Anthony was on his way home, to the house from which Hazel had departed on the day of her murder. I am flummoxed every time I think of what a coincidence that is.
Constable admits that at the time he had absolutely no idea who Brett Kebble was and did not recognise him at all. I’m not entirely surprised by this admission as it does seem as though Kebble has achieved more notoriety through his death than through his life. ‘I handled it like a normal, normal scene. I got on the radio and called it in. We found his wallet – I can’t remember exactly where. It was either on the dashboard, in the cubbyhole or on the seat next to him. That’s how we immediately knew it wasn’t a hijacking.’
He got back onto his radio and requested detectives, a mortuary van and a duty officer to go out to the scene. Another officer suggested Constable run the licence plate of the Merc through the system and it came back as registered in the name of a RB Kebble. Constable still didn’t have a clue as to the enormity of the crime. ‘One of the Sandton guys heard me testing the licence and asked me who the car belongs to. I told them it’s a “Kebble”. They told me, “This is big. This is really big. He’s a multimillionaire, big time bloke.”’
More police officers began to arrive. Constable handed over the scene and went with some colleagues to see if they could find any evidence of bullet casings down the road.
‘We walked for a few hundred metres until the road splits. We looked all over and couldn’t find anything. It’s quite dark and it was like looking for a needle in a haystack. We couldn’t find any casings or anything,’ he recalls. There were also no eyewitnesses, no one had stopped to help and the area they were searching in was extensive.
Constable recalls that it was around that time that the scene began to buzz, media started swarming the area and Brett’s friends and colleagues began appearing. So too did the police top brass. ‘Out of the blue, all Kebble’s colleagues started arriving. Guys in suits and ties. Black guys and white guys. They were like shocked, saying that they had plans to meet him for dinner and he never arrived. Gauteng Police Commissioner Perumal Naidoo was there. All these high-brass people were on the scene, people you wouldn’t normally expect.’
Sello Rasethaba could be overheard telling teary colleagues, ‘He was on his way to have dinner with me,’ before dismissing waiting reporters with a shout of ‘Just let us grieve.’ With police tape flapping in the wind, Commissioner Naidoo fed the media machine with a brief statement. ‘It might have been a hit, but we will be investigating all possible leads,’ he told the cameras. A crime-scene photographer was busy snapping pics of a long skid mark left by Kebble’s car – an indication, perhaps, that he was trying to flee his attackers? A lamppost that had been hit by the car had been cordoned off and tracks showed that he’d clipped the pavement as he drove up the bridge. Ten orange cones marked vital pieces of evidence. Journalists could overhear a man making several muffled calls on his cellphone: ‘Roger, it is close to Athol Oaklands Road. Yes, the police have confirmed that he had been shot.’ They had little doubt that the Roger in question was Brett’s father, who received the news while on holiday in Paris.
But there is also another critical piece of evidence that dismisses some established misconceptions about what happened on that chilly September night in 2005: a never-before-seen video of Brett Kebble’s corpse collapsed in his car. Constable captured it on his cellphone and before now has not made it public.
At our meeting, he switches on his laptop and hits play. The image is grainy but the visual of the tycoon’s bloodied body slumped to the left, a serene look on his face, is instantly recognisable. His collared shirt is ripped to the midriff and appears as though it’s been partially pulled off him revealing his right shoulder. Flashing blue lights illuminate the picture, a bullet hole through the back left door window is perfectly framed and the chatter of policemen speaking about the cold weather serves as a soundtrack.
The video dispels a myth, which has been bothering me for some time. I’d repeatedly heard from other policemen and potential conspiracy theorists that there was a smear of blood on the bonnet of Brett’s car which had been wiped off. Klatzow was also concerned about this smear after apparently seeing it on TV footage and The Cape Argus newspaper claimed to have seen two photographs of the reddish-brown splatter. The video, shot literally minutes after the murder, showed no blood on the bonnet of the car. Constable also dismisses the theory saying he never noticed anything of the sort. However, Constable is unsettled by other aspects of the scene, most notably by Brett’s torn shirt. This is also plaguing me and I agree with him that it doesn’t entirely make sense. He was the first person to arrive on the scene and no paramedics had been there. But Brett’s shirt is torn open as if he had been worked on. Mikey tells me he never noticed anything unusual about Brett’s shirt and vehemently denies ever touching him.
The day after the shooting, the Cape Times newspaper quoted ‘a witness who arrived on the scene before the police on Tuesday night’ as saying, ‘There was blood everywhere. Someone wanted him dead – there can be no doubt. The car was riddled with bullet holes.’ The ‘witness’ declined to be named. So who exactly did the newspaper quote? Perhaps it was Anthony Crane or attorney David Khan, the two men who had driven past the murder scene.
- Mandy Wiener is a reporter at EWN.