Where is Dietrich?

2014-05-23 00:00

“IT’S quite an enigma.” That’s private investigator Kevin Woods’s take on the disappearance of German national Dietrich Scholz (72) who appears to have vanished without trace from his upmarket Glenwood home.

The house in J.B. Marks (formerly Chelmsford) Road, situated a few hundred metres from St Augustine’s Hospital, is now sealed with police cordon tape.

Despite his high-end residence, Scholz spent his time mixing with homeless people in the area where he was a familiar figure, often seen pulling a trolley with a wooden container filled with his purchases and other items.

Estate agent Charmain Galbraith appears to be one of the few people who actually knew Scholz, who was, according to Heather Rorick of the Bulwer Community Safety Forum “something of a recluse who kept himself to himself”.

Galbraith met Scholz last year when he came to the ReMax estate agency and inquired about buying a property in the area. “ ‘I want a bit of paradise for my last few days’, he told me,” recalls Galbraith.

However, his dress and his manner did not indicate that he would be able to afford a property in the area. “One minute he was nutty and would claim the CIA were shooting laser beams at him, at other times he was so sharp.”

In an attempt to discourage him, Galbraith took Scholz to see a property valued at R1,5 million, thinking he would not be able to afford it. “He walked around and said, ‘It’s just not my paradise’. And told me to keep looking.”

Still filled with misgivings, Galbraith took Scholz to 216 J.B. Marks Road, valued at R2,5 million. “He said, ‘This is it, this is my paradise.’

“I told him he would never afford it. But he told me to make an offer.”

Galbraith then contacted Scholz’s bank manager. “I told him the story and said, ‘He can’t afford this’. He asked how much the property was and when I told him he said, ‘He can buy it six times over’”.

“He moved in and he was so happy,” said Galbraith.

According to Woods, on May 5 a neighbour noticed the entrance gate to Scholz’s house was off its rails. The neighbour subsequently entered the property and found a stranger, probably a homeless person, staying in the garage. The police intervened at this stage and sealed the area with crime scene tape. However, they do not appear to have investigated further and had not answered questions directed to them by the time of going to press.

The interior of the house was found to have been vandalised and according to Woods, who offered his expertise gratis as a community service, a human molar was found in one room together with a bridge of front teeth.

Woods subsequently “checked every clue available”, including dentists, doctors, attorneys and local hospitals.

Woods was able to establish that Scholz came to South Africa in 2009 and had been extending his stay on a visa basis. He also had a temporary asylum seeker permit. “He had applied for refugee status as an economic refugee, though he wasn’t short of cash,” said Woods.

Woods checked local hospitals such as St Augustine’s, Entabeni and the adjacent St Joseph’s mental healthcare facility. Scholz suffered from prostate cancer.

Woods said he doesn’t think Scholz’s house is a murder scene. “I don’t get that feel at all. It’s more like he locked up and walked off. My gut-feeling is that he has just gone on a walk about.”

Scholz occasionally attended the Glenwood Community Church and pastor Dean Meistre said he was told by a congregation member who had seen Scholz earlier in the year that Scholz said he was going to Johannesburg to see a brother.

However, the German honorary consul in Durban, Horst Achtzehn, said Scholz’s only known relatives are in Germany where he has an ex-wife and a son, Tobias Oeckert.

Achtzehn said the consulate had previously initiated contact with Scholz’s son in Germany and acted as a go-between as Scholz had no landline, cellphone or Internet connection. “The son expressed a desire to fly out and see him and re-establish contact with his father.

“We have dealt with Mr Scholz several times over a period of years,” said Achtzehn. This was usually when Scholz was hospitalised and the hospital wanted to ascertain whether he was a South African or German citizen and who was responsible for his bill.

Achtzehn was aware Scholz had applied for asylum but for exactly what reason he was unsure. “At times hospitals had talked of sending him for psychiatric tests. And he spoke of being pursued by the FBI. Maybe it was on those grounds he got asylum, but I don’t know. He was independent and had money; there was no reason for us to intervene.

“We don’t know where Mr Scholz is at the moment,” said Achtzehn. “He could be travelling. He had travelled extensively in the past and lived for a while in the Far East.”

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