The infamous couple who were behind the spree of kidnappings of young girls

2014-12-20 00:00

CORNELIUS Gerhardus van Rooyen and his girlfriend, Francina Joey Haarhoff, will stand in the annals of South African history — their spree of child ­kidnappings having torn families apart.

The memory of the South African ­paedophile and the killer couple he commanded lives on. In concert with ­Haarhoff, they are thought to have ­abducted and murdered at least five young girls between 1988 and 1989.

A sixth girl had escaped.

According to dated reports, Van Rooyen’s son Flippie alleged that the girls had been killed as part of satanic rituals and that their bodies had been burnt with ­acid, or that they had been taken to the Middle East. He also alleged that three former National Party (NP) ministers had been involved in a child smuggling network with his father, which involved selling girls for cash. However, no grounds were found for these claims.

Van Rooyen had regularly fallen foul of the law and was convicted of petty theft and sent to a reform school in 1954 after he stole a car and rifle.

He was imprisoned again in 1960 for stealing motor spares and clothing.

He fathered six children and, after a brief period of incarceration, he operated a construction business together with his brothers.

In 1979, he abducted two girls aged 10 and 13 and forced them to perform sexual acts, but released them two a day later in Pretoria.

He was arrested shortly thereafter and convicted on charges of abduction, ­sexual assault and common assault of the girls. He served three years of his ­four-year sentence.

In 1988, he began courting Francina Johanna (Joey) Hermina Haarhoff.

The light-brown-haired and fair-skinned woman was described by her friends as someone who was attractive and who could have had any man she wanted. The pairing of her and Van Rooyen seemed odd, given that he was much older than she was.

Friends and family said Haarhoff was a hard-working woman who raised her three boys alone after her husband’s death in the mid-eighties by working as an accounts clerk and later as a debtor’s clerk.

Haarhoff’s sons said that after she ­began dating Van Rooyen, her ­personality changed drastically.

In 1989, Van Rooyen shot Haarhoff ­before turning the gun on himself when police were closing in on them in ­Pretoria.

Police investigator Major Mike van Aardt said that while it is widely ­accepted that Van Rooyen had ­orchestrated Fiona Harvey’s disappearance, it is now thought that he had worked alone.

Fiona’s abduction came before Van Rooyen and Haarhoff paired up, and ­witnesses who spotted him prowling the streets of Pietermaritzburg and Durban had reported to police that he had been alone in his work bakkie.

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