No bomb, simply a game

2012-12-28 00:00

BLOEMFONTEIN — An elderly man who plays a treasure hunt game on the Internet was the “suspected bomb planter of Naval Hill”.

Louwtjie van der Watt (71) said yesterday that a massive misunderstanding led police to close the new statue of former president Nelson Mandela on Sunday, after guards said they had seen someone they thought was trying to plant a bomb.

Many people were turned away while sniffer dogs searched the site.

“It’s absolute nonsense that I was trying to plant a bomb.

“The security guards seemed rather clueless,” Van der Watt told sister newspaper Volksblad yesterday.

He said he plays a game called Geocaching Online.

Players hide small containers at places all over the world and publish the co-ordinates online at the website for others to find, using GPS devices.

Visitors from all over the world search for the containers, which usually contain a small trinket and a notebook, for each finder to note his or her name and details.

“It’s usually something small, like a pill container,” he said.

Van der Watt said he has hidden more than 200 caches around Bloemfontein and in other places around SA.

“The containers are usually hidden in interesting places and they are camouflaged to make them harder to spot,” he explained.

He said he rode up to the site on Naval Hill on his scooter on Saturday afternoon to hide a container near the statue.

“I explained carefully to the two security guards why I was doing it and how the game works. They said they understood,” he added.

He said that on Sunday he went back to the site on his bicycle to hide another cache in a camouflaged container.

“There were two other guards on duty and I explained again how it worked. Then they told how the guards the previous day had said an “old man on a motorbike wanted to plant a bomb”.

“I was astounded,” he exclaimed.

On Sunday, the police closed the site for a while and searched it with dogs, but found no bomb.

“I’ve been hiding treasures on Naval Hill for years — in 19 places around the site. I had permission from the supervisor to hide them.”

He said some of his “treasures” had been removed by the police. However, police spokesperson Brigadier Billy Jones said he was not aware of any “treasures” being removed.

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