‘Santa on a bicycle’ found in ditch, dies

2019-07-30 16:29
LEFT: Well-known and well-liked Charles ‘Mike’ Landsman, also known as Hilton’s Santa on a bicycle, died on Sunday after spending almost four days in a ditch. RIGHT: An old photo of a young Buyani Makhathini with his grandfather Charles ‘Mike’ Landsman. BELOW: Buyani Makhathini and his grandfather’s beloved dog, Ping Ping, who waited for Landsman near the ditch he was found in on Sunday morning. PHOTO: Moeketsi Mamane

LEFT: Well-known and well-liked Charles ‘Mike’ Landsman, also known as Hilton’s Santa on a bicycle, died on Sunday after spending almost four days in a ditch. RIGHT: An old photo of a young Buyani Makhathini with his grandfather Charles ‘Mike’ Landsman. BELOW: Buyani Makhathini and his grandfather’s beloved dog, Ping Ping, who waited for Landsman near the ditch he was found in on Sunday morning. PHOTO: Moeketsi Mamane

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After being missing for almost four days, well-liked Hilton car guard and caretaker of Howick’s airfield, Charles “Mike” Landsman was found in a ditch on the airfield on Sunday, only to be pronounced dead two hours after being rescued.

Police are investigating a case of murder surrounding his death and what friends and family have labelled “suspicious circumstances”.

Known for his long white beard and hair, Landsman (78) had worked as a car guard around Hilton, mainly at the Jacaranda Centre, for decades. He lived at the Howick Flying Club and was known to ride his bicycle from the Howick Flying Club near Mpophomeni, all the way to Hilton to work as a car guard.

According to family and friends, Landsman had difficulty walking and did not go anywhere without either his walking sticks or his bicycle.

Howick Flying Club chairperson Tex Impey said he had known Landsman for 12 years and that he had been “quite fit” until recently but still rode his bicycle and went for walks daily. “He was well-known and well-liked. He was a genuine guy and I enjoyed his company. He had so many interesting stories about his life and he absolutely loved his dogs.”

Impey is now caring for the dogs.

He said Landsman would usually ride his bicycle to the entrance of the airfield, lock it up, catch a taxi into town and come back riding his bike with the groceries on the handle bars. “He needed his walking stick or bike to help him walk. He could not do without them.”

However, when Landsman was found in the ditch a few 100 metres from his home on Sunday, his walking sticks were nowhere to be found.

Landsman’s grandson, Buyani Makhathini, who lived with his grandfather at the airfield while growing up, said it was devastating news to Landsman’s family.

“We were told by police to open a murder case because of the circumstances. My grandfather could not walk without his walking stick. He walked every day along the same route with his dog, Ping Ping.

“He went missing on Thursday afternoon and everyone on the airfield was looking for him.

“People drove past the ditch he was in several times between Thursday and early Sunday. I cannot make sense of why he didn’t try to call for help or why he did not have his walking sticks.”

Howick resident Bart Snyman was at the airfield on Sunday when Landsman was found.

“We saw his dog, Ping Ping, standing near the ditch but thought he was maybe waiting along the road for Mike.

“On Sunday morning, people riding their horses started shouting and called for the army who in turn called Midlands EMS.”

An old photo of a young Buyani Makhathini with his grandfather Charles ‘Mike’ Landsman.

Midlands EMS spokesperson Derrick Banks said the man was found severely dehydrated and had hypothermia. There were no visible injuries on Landsman, and he had left his shoes and a newspaper outside the ditch, thought to be an attempt to get someone’s attention.

Paying tribute to his grandfather, Makhathini said Landsman “lived his life as a fighter and a man with a plan”.

“... He looked after me since I was two years old and sent me to some of the best schools in Hilton.

“I always had what I needed growing up but not having very much taught me if you have love and kindness you have everything.

“He was loved by many and known by the whole of Hilton as Santa on a bicycle ...

“He will be missed. I will never forget him and the love he gave. He lived an honest life. I wish I had a chance to say goodbye.”

Buyani Makhathini and his grandfathers beloved dog, Ping Ping, who waited for Landsman near the ditch he was found in on Sunday morning. 


Read more on:    pietermaritzburg  |  accident
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