REVEALED | Here is the teacher-turned-journalist who allegedly sexually assaulted boys for years

2019-11-21 06:00
Willem Breytenbach. (Instagram)

Willem Breytenbach. (Instagram)

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Willem Breytenbach, a former teacher-turned-journalist who became an executive at Media24 before he left the company in 2014, is accused of raping a schoolboy more than 20 years ago when he headed-up a school newspaper project for the company.


On Thursday, News24 and Deon Wiggett, in a four-part true-crime podcast titled My Only Story, tracks down Breytenbach, who allegedly sexually assaulted many boys and young men since at least 1990.

Breytenbach has gone to ground since the first episode of My Only Story flighted on News24 two weeks ago. He abandoned his house in Cape Town and told most of his almost 30 colleagues at his digital marketing firm Lightspeed Digital Media to resign. He switched off his cellphone and closed all his social media accounts.

On Monday, Wiggett opened a case with the police who are investigating his and other complaints.

In the third episode of his podcast, Wiggett unmasked the man he had previously referred to as "Jimmy" as Breytenbach, a former Grey College teacher, who moved to Hoërskool Willowmore in the Eastern Cape and Hoërskool Langenhoven in Riversdale, before joining Die Burger as an education reporter in 1995. 


MY ONLY STORY | A podcast series and live investigation into a sexual predator


News24 is in possession of three statements implicating Breytenbach in the grooming, sexual assault and what would today be regarded as the rape of minors. Since he started his investigation and after publication of the first podcast, 13 more men have come forward to tell Wiggett their stories of alleged sexual abuse at Breytenbach's hands.

Some of these alleged sexual abuses of minors took place while Breytenbach was a teacher between 1989 and 1994.

Others allegedly took place when Breytenbach was a reporter for Die Burger and in charge of the Naspers school newspaper project between 1995 and 2003.

Media24 CEO Ishmet Davidson has called the revelations "shocking", saying the company was willing to co-operate fully with the authorities. He said the company had started its own review into the matter and found no record or evidence of any issues raised or allegations made against Breytenbach during his employment at Media24.

Breytenbach's whereabouts are unknown, despite several attempts to locate him through former colleagues and family members. 

Here is a breakdown of how Wiggett went about to expose Breytenbach:


PODCAST 1: 'I was raped at 17 and I'm not the only one'


Published on November 7, Wiggett recounted a shocking tale of how he and other underaged boys were allegedly sexually molested 20-odd years ago by a man who used to be a teacher at a prestigious school and who later became a senior corporate executive.

At the time, Wiggett refers to the man simply as "Jimmy".

Wiggett describes Breytenbach, who is now 55, as "deeply unattractive", a man who looks like a bullfrog and "sweats by the gallon".

"I'm not going to tell you all the details of what Jimmy did to me and neither will the other men in this programme. Each instance was deeply illegal and a devastating personal invasion. Let's leave the topic of teenage penises there…

"The story isn't even about that. It's about whether it's even possible to catch a guy like Jimmy."

In January this year, Wiggett began to dedicate himself to tracking Breytenbach down and bringing him to justice. This included tracking down other victims - an arduous task, since much of it happened so long ago. 

Working his way through Breytenbach's social media accounts, Wiggett systematically builds a picture of Breytenbach today, driving past his house in Cape Town, as well as his workplace. 

Wiggett started to assemble bits and pieces of Breytenbach's life, speaking to friends and acquaintances, putting together clues and familiarising himself with the identities of young men he sees on photos with Breytenbach.

Wiggett discovers that Breytenbach is hiding a seven-year period of his life - a time when he taught at one of the country's most prestigious schools.

This sets the wheels in motion for Wiggett to "name Jimmy in the public interest before the summer holidays".

Going back to the "seven missing years", Wiggett sets about finding men who had been in contact with Breytenbach during this period.


PODCAST 2: The 'seven missing years'


Wiggett makes a startling discovery in his search to find other victims of Breytenbach's. Prior to becoming a corporate executive, Breytenbach spent seven years that are unaccounted for on his CV.

Wiggett reveals that, during these seven "lost years", Breytenbach was a teacher at one of South Africa's most prestigious schools: Grey College in Bloemfontein, the Free State.

In 1989 and 1990, Breytenbach was a teacher involved with several extramural activities at Grey.

But he was also allegedly involved in the sexual abuse of boys.

Going "undercover" as a researcher, Wiggett goes on a quest to the school in an attempt to find more information about Breytenbach's time at Grey. 

Wiggett then sets off to Grey College under a guise in an attempt to gain access to the school's archives to find more of Breytenbach's victims. Once in, he makes a startling discovery. It turns out Breytenbach wasn't telling the whole truth about his years as a teacher at the school…Instead of the seven years Breytenbach claimed he had taught at Grey, it appears that he unceremoniously left in 1990 after spending a mere two years at the school. 

But then he left abruptly, Wiggett discovers, "to a place so obscure, I have to search for it on my phone".

Wading through yearbook pictures, Wiggett painstakingly begins to assemble a list of possible victims of sexual abuse and begins to carefully reach out to those he manages to locate.

For months, Grey College was like a fortress, Wiggett recalls, until he receives a phone call from a former Grey pupil.

"I can tell you everything…" the caller says.


PODCAST 3: Unmasking 'Jimmy' - this is the man who raped me 20 years ago


Wiggett meets Ben*, who is a former Grey College pupil, at a restaurant. Ben is the man whom Wiggett refers to at the end of Episode 2 of My Only Story, when he receives a call that simply states: "I can tell you everything…" "He wasn't kidding," Wiggett remarks.

Ben recalls how he walked into Breytenbach's room in a building that housed teachers on the Grey College grounds, where he found Breytenbach in bed with a 15-year-old classmate. 

Ben also reveals that Breytenbach used a trick to get him alone one afternoon in 1990. "It's the same trick that Brandon* told me about…" In episode 2 of My Only Story, Wiggett speaks to Brandon who reveals that Breytenbach allegedly tricked him into taking off his shorts. He abruptly ends the conversation and never contacts Wiggett again. "Ben is in Jimmy's room. His leg is sore and he is no match for Jimmy's cunning. On that Saturday afternoon, Jimmy did what Jimmy does - got his hands on the penis of teenage Ben who was 15." 

READ | More former pupils come forward as sexual assault allegations pile up against ex-Grey teacher

Back home, Wiggett sets about to find the boy Ben was talking about. He also tries to find out more about what happened in the five years since Breytenbach left Grey to teach at Willowmore. This proves difficult, and Wiggett sets his sights on the period after Breytenbach left teaching - "a new Jimmy for the 21st century".

Starting with Breytenbach's "enemies", Wiggett's enquiries bring him closer to Breytenbach "and his loyal lieutenants".

During a Skype conversation with an informant in Asia, Wiggett is informed about Ned who used to work for Breytenbach until they had a fallout.

Wiggett reaches out to Ned and tries to convince him to talk about Breytenbach whom he refers to only by his initials. Ned responds with the initials, followed by a question mark. "He doesn't get who I'm talking about."

But then Wiggett receives a LinkedIn notification. It's from Breytenbach. He wants to connect…

Wiggett next gets a message from Breytenbach: "Deon. My friend Ned says you're looking for me."

The man the story is about

"It is time I introduced you to Willem Breytenbach, who is one of the men this story is about," Wiggett says.

He proceeds to reveal that Breytenbach is 55 years old and lives in Three Anchor Bay, Cape Town. 

After leaving Grey College "in disgrace", Breytenbach made his way to Willowmore, where he taught for two years before moving to Riversdale for another two. This completes six of the "seven missing years" that Wiggett tried to uncover, before Breytenbach made his way to Cape Town where he started a career as a journalist.

In 1996, Wiggett meets Breytenbach when he is 16 years old. At that time, Breytenbach was working at Die Burger. In 1997, aged 17, Breytenbach lured Wiggett to his flat in Sea Point via a quick detour of an empty newsroom at Die Burger. It is here where Breytenbach allegedly raped Wiggett in the mouth.

In the next two decades, Breytenbach would rise through the ranks to become a senior executive at Media24. He left the company in 2014 to start a digital marketing agency called Lumico with ex-Media24 colleague Daniël Malherbe. In 2018, the two split up and Breytenbach started Lightspeed Digital Media.

In his final podcast episode for the year, Wiggett will reveal how Breytenbach came up with a new scheme that would give him access "to all the high school boys his heart desired … me too". 

News24 was unable to reach Breytenbach for comment. We sent questions to his cellphone (that was switched off); to his partner; his former business partner, and close friends. Nobody responded. There was no answer at his house in Three Anchor Bay and the offices of Lightspeed Digital Media were deserted.

Former Media24 CEO Esmaré Weideman said she was "deeply shocked" by the allegations against Breytenbach. "If these allegations had ever reached me as CEO or my HR manager, no stone would have been left unturned to investigate them promptly and thoroughly."

Francois Groepe, her predecessor, referred all queries to Media24.

  • 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 tips@24.com.

The final episode of My Only Story will be published on November 28. 

Before founding his own companies, Breytenbach headed the digital division of Media24 magazines. He also headed the Media24 weekly magazines division. Prior to that, he headed up business development for Naspers in India. He started his career with the company as an education reporter at Die Burger, before becoming business editor and later news editor. He also headed the school newspaper project. 

* Not their real names. 

** News24 is owned by Media24, a division of Naspers.

Read more on:    naspers  |  media24  |  willem breytenbach  |  rape  |  my only story
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