EXCLUSIVE :Terrified woman tells of how her smuggler husband destroyed her life

By Pieter van Zyl
28 July 2017

“My life was destroyed and I’ll never be able to fully trust a man again."

“I’m scared he’ll find out where I am,” says Elaine* from a small town somewhere in the north of our country.

“I was married to a smuggler. He’s still smuggling. He’s also been involved in conspiracy to murder, car theft and other crimes. He had me in his power and held me emotionally captive with threats. I don’t want to be held captive like that anymore.”

Fortunately, she’s found a job in a liquor store after running away with nothing more than the clothes on her back.

“I got on a bus and slept on the streets for four nights; in the toilets at petrol stations.”

Elaine tracked down a school friend on Facebook and since has been living in the same town as her friend and her husband.

“They saved my life . . .”

Elaine and her future husband met in May 1985 at a popular dance club in Pretoria. His best friend was Elaine’s boyfriend at the time. “We fell in love and got married at the end of July 1985. He moved into my rented flat with a suitcase full of clothes.

“A few months after the wedding he lost his job. Then he got a job again, then he lost it again – this continued for years. He’d been a security guard, then he was the owner of a welding business." After her father had died they moved in with her mom. He was still unable to keep a job.

After her father had died they moved in with her mom. He was still unable to keep a job.

“We had three children. As the kids got bigger he became more heavy-handed with them. Once he assaulted the eldest so badly that I called the police. They didn’t want to come.”

Apparently, they asked, “Is your son dead?” When she replied that he wasn’t they rang off. “Perhaps he had connections with the cops, I don’t know.”

He got involved in a car theft syndicate. “He’d tell me that he’d be working at night but that we’d be safe as someone would be near and watching the house.

“Then he’d disappear and only return the next day. Each time he’d say that he had to ‘steal’ a car for someone else so the person could claim insurance. Sometimes he’d even mention the client’s name. Then he’d tell me how he had to drive around the whole night while his contacts would tell him where he had to take the car.”

About two weeks after they got married he started talking about a certain José, 'a short, chubby Portuguese with a dark skin. This man would remain part of our lives until the end.'

He even had a ring made that made him part of the gang, or 'network' as he called it. He often said that one of their two sons would one day take over his position and would then have to wear the ring.

In 2000, she was present when he planned to 'take out' a man from Witbank because he’d assaulted is wife. He said he was having the man watched and that he knew his movements.

“This stuck in my throat, but because I was so scared of José I couldn’t do anything except to pray. Two days before the murder was scheduled, he was ‘converted’ and drop the plan.

“His ‘conversion’ also changed the nature of our relationship – I was now taught that he would be responsible for making decisions. As an obedient wife, I was supposed to support him, because that’s what God expected of me. Then I’d be obedient to God.

“He testified in the church’s cell-group meetings and even in the church itself about his misdeeds ‘in the past’. Our marriage was often used in discussions – obviously as the ‘good marriage’.”

In 2006, he started working as a truck driver. Soon he took up a job at an international company that supposedly imported vegetables.

“I often went with on his trips and had to watch the daily bribery on our borders. He became one of three who’d transport special loads ‘for the boss’.

“These, it turned out, were contraband cigarettes. And gold. And liquor. AK47s. Cellphones. Electrical goods. He brought home R18 000 a week which he locked in a safe.

“Then one of his comrades was arrested at Beit Bridge, Musina, and locked up. The other two – of which my husband was one – were then given massive amounts to go and ‘hide’ from the authorities: the police and the South African Revenue Service.

“Much later I read in the newspapers how much was spent to make that case go away. It was nerve-racking to know you’re with a man, your husband, who’s a fugitive.

“In the end, he was fired and he took a job at a fuel importer in Bronkhorstspruit. He’s still working there, he simply dumped me with our kids.” That was about three years ago. After that, she moved around between her eldest son, her daughter and her youngest son.

A friend, who’d worked with her ex, told her the guys party together in a flat on the company’s premises. Women aren’t allowed. They have a good time in bars and she knows from checking his cellphone that he’d cheated on her for years.

He’s still having relationships with his former female drivers and is apparently in a relationship with a widow who sells truck insurance in a town in the north of our country.

This makes her think he might have been involved in her husband’s death.

A week ago she heard from other people that she’s now officially divorced. “It’s no longer necessary to protect him and his deeds. But it’s necessary to bring them to light. This man’s manipulation must be stopped, also to prevent other women from falling into his trap.”

He turned her children against her and even alleged that her youngest son wanted to take his own life with an overdose of heroin. She made inquiries and discovered he’d been in the hospital for a stomach ulcer because he’d been drinking too much.

“My life was destroyed and I’ll never be able to fully trust a man again. But my newfound freedom is something special – something I hadn’t experienced in many years, not since before he was in my life.

At the time she was a policewoman. “I’m now beginning to get back that fearlessness,” she says.

“Every day I shift my boundaries, meet people and form friendships. As long as my heart remains my own and I’m never again owned by a malicious person . . .”

*Names of people and places were changed to protect Elaine.

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