Anatomy of a cold case

2012-05-26 17:21

The chef from Kenilworth, south of Johannesburg, is furious.

It’s Saturday night and his new tenants are due to arrive soon.

The previous tenants trashed his beautiful 60-year-old home.

The bedrooms are covered in brown carpet – the kind you’d find in an office – and the owner decides they must be ripped up immediately.

He’s too embarrassed to let the new tenants move in like this. He calls his fiancée, her son and his girlfriend, and the four of them get to work lifting the carpet squares.

By 9.30pm they are sweaty and tired, and find themselves in the bedroom closest to the main entrance. As they lift one of the squares near the door, they spot a strange bundle of letters.

It would have been fairly easy to lift one of the squares, slip something under it and then glue it back. They start reading the letters.

One of the three notes begins with the words: “If you are reading this, then I am dead.” Three pages later, it ends with: “Please do ­everything to avenge me.”

It’s signed September 30 1999.

The author was a tenant who moved out in 2000. That means for at least 12 years, but probably 13, the letter has been lying there, waiting to be discovered.

The pages reveal details of a ­grisly murder and at least two ­other abductions, executed by what appeared to be a gang.

The letter contains names, telephone and ID numbers, bank ­accounts, the location of more ­evidence, and leads the intended recipient to a gun safe containing a stash of cash, to be used to help “bring down” those implicated.

That same night, the homeowner – who has asked to remain anonymous – hands the letters over to the authorities. Suddenly, a cold murder case comes back to life.

Confirming the names in the ­letter proves difficult, as does tracing old case dockets. Investigators work flat out for several weeks to chase leads.

Eventually, they find their men and locate the victim’s family in the Eastern Cape. Over four days in May, they pounce on five suspects, two of whom are ­policemen.

The murder described in the confession is that of Tendani Betty Ketani, a 37-year-old mother-of-three who came to Johannesburg to work.

Her youngest child was just a year old at the time.

For more than a decade, her family had no idea what happened to her. All they knew is that one day she failed to arrive at the restaurant where she worked.

It was only this week that they heard the terrifying story contained in the letter.

Ketani was allegedly abducted, shot by the gang and left for dead. She survived and was taken to ­hospital, but news of this reached her attackers.

They hatched a plan to fake a medical transfer certificate to kidnap her from the hospital and finish the job.

Her body was buried in concrete at the Kenilworth house, but later removed, chopped up and dumped elsewhere.

Her brother Mankinki said it brought them great pain to hear these details.

He cried as he described his sister, a regular, ­happy woman who loved to dress “funky”, spending her money on sunglasses and hair extensions.

The five suspects – the author of the confession among them – ­appeared in a Johannesburg court on Friday.

They will apply for bail this week.

At least two of the men have allegedly confessed. It remains to be seen whether they will strike deals with the state to testify against the others and explain the crimes.

» Eliseev is an Eyewitness News reporter

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