'They want money for his body'

2004-09-07 07:37

Cape Town - Three weeks of tense uncertainty ended for a mother from George and her two daughters on Monday when they received official news that their husband and father, who has been missing in Iraq for the past three weeks, was dead.

The department of foreign affairs told Marleen Pretorius on Tuesday that a rebel group in Iraq had proven that they had killed her husband, Herman "Harry" Pretorius.

On top of that, they want a ransom to release the body.

"They (the rebels) have sent photos of Harry's body to his bosses in Iraq to prove that he is dead. The people there identified him from the photos."

"I do not know if he will ever come home - apparently the people who caught him want money before they let his body go," she said.

His wife does not know where the body is

Pretorius, who worked for the American company Dyncorp as a bodyguard, went missing on August 16 when Iraqi rebels ambushed and attacked a convoy in which he was driving one of the vehicles.

He was injured in a landmine explosion that initially forced the convoy to stop. His colleagues had to retreat after a shootout with the attackers and they left the heavily wounded Pretorius behind.

An Iraqi reaction force later saw the attackers drag Pretorius from the damaged vehicle and take him away.

Dycorp and South African authorities then launched a manhunt for Pretorius. Dyncorp offered a reward for anyone who could lead them to Pretorius or his remains.

His family meanwhile desperately hoped that he had survived the attack.

"Foreign affairs initially said the rebels sometimes hold people hostage to claim a ransom, but it now seems as if he died on the day of the attack," Mrs Pretorius said on Monday evening.

She said she had not seen the photographs and still did not know here his body is.

Ronnie Mamoepa, spokesperson for the department of foreign affairs, confirmed on Monday night that "there is information that indicates that Mr Pretorius is dead".

Darrell Elmore, a representative of Dyncorp in Iraq, did not want to say who the people were that contacted them over Pretorius's body.

"I am not allowed to make any media statements about the case. All I am willing to say is that we have already informed his family and the South African government."