Attempts to find Willem Breytenbach, 55, the former teacher and Media24 executive accused of sexually molesting and/or raping a number of teenage boys, have proved difficult since he went off the radar following the publication of a podcast by Deon Wiggett on November 7.
In the initial podcast, Wiggett uses the pseudonym "Jimmy" to refer to the man who allegedly raped him in 1995 when he was a schoolboy. He indicates that he intends to track his alleged rapist down, after more than 20 years, and find other possible victims to build a strong case.
MY ONLY STORY | A podcast series and live investigation into a sexual predator
Wiggett recounted a shocking tale of how he and other underaged boys were allegedly sexually molested by a man who used to be a teacher at a prestigious school and who later became a senior corporate executive.
Almost immediately after the publication of the initial podcast, Breytenbach, without being named, closed all his social media accounts and disabled his cellphone number.
He was suddenly unreachable.
The following Tuesday, News24's Aljoscha Kohlstock attempted to find Breytenbach at his home in Three Anchor Bay and his office in the CBD of Cape Town, but he was nowhere to be seen. His company, Lightspeed Digital Services, seemed operational, but by Wednesday, Kohlstock found the offices emptied and was told that the company had closed down. Around 30 employees lost their jobs.
On Wednesday, knowing that Wiggett and News24 were about to reveal the true identity of Jimmy, News24 travelled to Reebok, a small beachside town close to Mossel Bay in the Southern Cape, where he was rumoured to be staying at his mother's house.
We arrived at the house around 20:30 on Wednesday. After a few loud knocks on the front door, which is easily accessible from the street, Breytenbach's mother, Stephne, opened the door.
Supporting herself with a walker, she told News24 that Breytenbach wasn't there and that she had not heard from him in a while.
"I don't remember when last I saw him," she said. "I'm not lying."
Asked if she knew why Breytenbach had closed his business, she said she did not meddle in his affairs. "I don't ask my children about their business."
"I have to take my pills now and go to bed," she said, stating that she was recovering from surgery.
A bakkie then arrived at the house and parked at the back, where there is a cottage. A man who identified himself as Johnny Fourie, and who claimed he rented the cottage, told News24 he had last seen Breytenbach on Friday "when he left for Port Elizabeth for meetings".
Fourie said he did not know Breytenbach well and only saw him from time to time when he checked in on his mother.
'Harassment of a pensioner'
However, on a picture that was earlier posted on Instagram on December 27, 2016, Fourie can be seen lying on the beach with Breytenbach. The caption reads: "Late-afternoon swim with Johnny."
Shortly after News24 visited the house, Wiggett received a WhatsApp from a man who called himself "JJ". "Journalists harassment of a pensioner at 20:30 at night? Well done."
JJ then proceeds to tell Wiggett that Breytenbach's mother required medical attention following the visit. News24 has reason to believe that JJ and Johnny are the same person.
The next morning, at 06:30, we again visited the house. The street was deserted and the curtains to the house drawn. A copy of Die Burger - where Breytenbach once worked as an education reporter - was lodged between the front door and the security door.
After knocking, the door was opened by Fourie - the man who earlier said he rented the cottage. It was clear he had been asleep.
After again enquiring about Breytenbach's whereabouts, Fourie told us to "go away" and slammed the door. He did not collect the newspaper.
Acting on a strong lead that Breytenbach was at an address in Port Elizabeth, News24's crew undertook the four-hour trip, a scenic drive that passes through the towns of Knysna and Plettenberg Bay.
On the road, Al and I, who had only met the day before, discovered that we had a number of things in common, such as a love for classic cars and movies. We discussed how we would go about trying to find Breytenbach and considered how we would approach him once we actually did. But, for the most part, we were convinced that he had eluded us and that we would return home without ever locating him.
'I can't talk to you'
However, shortly after arriving and having a quick bite, we received word that Breytenbach had been located at the very same house in Reebok that we had staked out since Wednesday by Netwerk24 reporter Jackie Kruger.
We reloaded our yet unpacked suitcases into the crammed boot of our rented Suzuki Swift and headed back to Reebok in the hopes of finally coming face-to-face with the man who had, since being identified, been accused of sexual crimes by a number of other men and who was now being investigated by police after Wiggett opened a criminal case against him on Monday.
According to police sources, the investigating officer, Warrant Officer Rowan Andrews, had been inundated with more names of alleged victims after Breytenbach's name was revealed by News24 on Thursday.
We arrive at the house after dark. Some lights are on, but the curtains are drawn and there is not a sound to be heard. We knock. A white curtain to the left to the door moves slightly. A few seconds pass, and then the door is unlocked. Behind the security door stands Breytenbach, dressed casually in a black T-shirt and rugby shorts.
We introduce ourselves. We shake hands. And then Breytenbach, in a soft, controlled voice, says: "Riaan, Riaan... humbly, as humble as I can be, with as much respect as possible, I can't talk to you..."
I try my luck anyway. "Can I perhaps ask you a few questions?"
"No, not at all..." he replies.
After enquiring about his and his mother's health, Breytenbach retreats into the hallway and says: "Please respect me. I respect you, but unfortunately, I can't speak to you."
The final episode of My Only Story will be published on November 28.
- Here is the teacher-turned-journalist who allegedly sexually assaulted boys for years
- Adriaan Basson: Exposing a sexual predator who taught me about news
- This is why News24 is naming Willem Breytenbach
- TIMELINE | How the net closed in on 'Jimmy' and how he fled
- How 'Jimmy' closed his business, shut up shop and ran away
- Media24, Naspers 'shocked' and 'appalled' at allegations of sex crimes against former exec
- 'Sex pest' Breytenbach found at mother's house in Mossel Bay
- WATCH | 'Sex pest' Breytenbach speaks: 'With respect, I have nothing to say'
Warrant Officer Rowan Andrews is the investigating officer in the case. He has confirmed to News24 that the criminal investigation into Breytenbach is ongoing and has asked members of the public with information that can assist the case to contact him on 082 729 8155 or 021 590 1001.News24 is continuing its investigation into Breytenbach.
If you have information about him or his whereabouts, send an email to email@example.com.
News24 is owned by Media24, a division of Naspers.