Missing girls search renewed

2019-11-13 17:07
Gert van Rooyen. (Photo: Archives)

Gert van Rooyen. (Photo: Archives)

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The infamous Gert van Rooyen case has taken another turn with “cold case” investigators now looking closely at the possibility that his kidnap victims were trafficked out of Durban harbour to Mauritius.

Employment records of Van Rooyen place him as working as a handyman for a Durban company which ferried fire doors between Durban and Pretoria, and investigators are looking at the possibility that Van Rooyen and accomplices moved their victims out of the country via Durban harbour.

The 30-year-old cold case has been re-ignited since its original investigating officer, now-retired career cop Don Chandler, began re-examining the evidence in his personal capacity.

Van Rooyen and his partner Joey Haarhoff are believed to have kidnapped seven girls, one of whom escaped, during a spree in the late 1980s. They include Pietermaritzburg’s Fiona Harvey (12), who vanished while running an errand to buy milk in the suburb of Clarendon.

Police closed in on Haarhoff and Van Rooyen after a 16-year-old girl they’d abducted managed to escape their clutches, but soon afterwards in January 1990 Van Rooyen shot Haarhoff and then himelf while the couple were being pursued by police.

Chandler told The Witness that among the evidence that police had not previously made public was the fact that Van Rooyen and Haarhoff had written their wills and suicide notes on January 11, 1990 shortly after the escaped girl fled the couple’s house in the Pretoria suburb of Capital Park.

“Then four days later they died in front of my eyes during a chase. It looked like they were preparing to kill themselves.”

Chandler said investigators working with the case have evidence that shows Van Rooyen was regularly at Durban harbour and suspicion is rife that he may have had connections at the harbour who helped him to traffic girls.

Chandler also revealed to The Witness that a traffic cop had noticed two girls who “appeared to have been drugged” in Van Rooyen’s vehicle when he was caught for speeding in 1989 near Townhill.

Chandler said the most recent investigations point to the possibility that the kidnap victims might have been trafficked to Mauritius, where companies that shipped cargo from the company where Van Rooyen worked were based. He added that a UK tycoon who has received royal recognition is being looked at as being involved.

He told The Witness that for a few months Van Rooyen worked for Micor Forwarding, a now-defunct company, where he would install fire doors for clients in Durban and Pretoria.

“Van Rooyen used to travel with a 2,5 ton van and would carry fire doors from Pinetown to Pretoria. Now we are trying to track down people who can help us link Van Rooyen’s movements so we can create a timeline of him being in Pretoria or Durban and the girls going missing.

“We know, for example, that after every girl [in Pretoria] was kidnapped, Van Rooyen would travel to Durban.

“We have photographs of Haarhoff on the Esplanade [now Margaret Mncadi Avenue in Durban], which is near where they load ships.”

Chandler appealed to people who had worked at the docks at that time to come forward with any information they have. “We need more direct evidence,” he added.

Returning to Van Rooyen’s links with Pietermaritzburg, Chandler said in January 1990 Van Rooyen had been given a speeding ticket on the N3 toward Durban near Townhill. He said a traffic officer had given a statement reporting having seen “two young girls” covered in a pink and grey blanket at the back of Van Rooyen’s Ford Bantam bakkie. “The cop said that the girls appeared to be drugged,” Chandler said, adding that a blanket matching the description given was found in Van Rooyen’s house the night he killed himself.

“That blanket was sent for DNA testing, but nothing was found because it had lots of animal hair on it.”

Chandler said old evidence collected at the time may get re-tested with more advanced modern methods now available, but added the “cold case” investigators were having trouble getting police to release evidence to them. The girls who were kidnapped were Fiona (12), Tracy-Lee Scott-Crossley (14) of Randburg, Joan Horn (12) of Pretoria, Odette Boucher (11) and Anne-Mari Wapenaar (12) both of Kempton Park, and Yolanda Wessels (13). Anyone with information can contact Chandler on gvrplus@protonmail.com

Read more on:    pietermaritzburg  |  missing child case

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