'Sexual predator' Breytenbach attempted suicide on Mossel Bay beach

Willem Breytenbach. (Instagram)
Willem Breytenbach. (Instagram)

Willem Breytenbach, the former Media24 magazine executive and teacher who is being accused by at least 16 men of sexual abuse, tried to end his life on a beach near Mossel Bay last week, News24 can confirm.

It was just after 21:00 on November 15, that members of a neighbourhood watch patrolling the serene Tergniet Beach area spotted a man lying on the beach, apparently unresponsive, said the source with direct knowledge of the incident, speaking on condition of anonymity.

The patrollers had also noted an unlocked 4X4 vehicle that was parked nearby.

Alarmed by this, they called the Great Brak police station to report it, and the police in turn called an ambulance.

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

The source said that, when the ambulance arrived for Breytenbach on Friday night, he was in a bad way.

"He put several different types of medication in a bag and he crushed it, and then he drank it with alcohol," the source said.

A squeezy bottle with a mixture of alcohol in it was also found near him, and his condition was critical.

"But he was breathing."

Two Great Brak police sources confirmed the incident.

Grey College teacher

An officer, who did not want to be named as he is not officially authorised to speak to the media, confirmed the circumstances as reported.

At the time, most of the people on the beach had no idea he was the person at the centre of allegations contained in a four-part true-crime podcast by copywriter Deon Wiggett, titled My Only Story. In it, he levels allegations against Breytenbach, whose career included a stint as a teacher at Grey College in Bloemfontein.

Wiggett accuses Breytenbach of raping him as a schoolboy in 1997.

Since Wiggett's podcast, Breytenbach appears to have shut down his life as he knew it.

He closed his company Lightspeed Digital Media, which had 30 staffers, abandoned his upmarket Cape Town home, closed his social media and company website, and ignored his phone.

News24 traced him to Reebok, a small pretty seaside town along the Southern Cape coast, outside Mossel Bay, where his elderly mother lives.

This is not far from the quiet pretty beach on which he tried to end his life.

WATCH | Breytenbach speaks: 'With respect, I have nothing to say'

News24 visited Breytenbach for comment, but he asked that the journalists leave.

"With respect I have nothing to say." Asked whether he was in hospital, Breytenbach said he was doing well.

Last Friday night, onlookers saw that the first thing that had to be done after establishing that he was still breathing, was to figure out what type of medication had been in the plastic bag.

This is done before administering the medication which begins the process of trying to reverse an overdose, in case the reversal medication makes it worse.

One of the people at the scene knew him, and it was through this breakthrough, that paramedics were able to contact his mother.

They were told he had been taking strong sleeping tablets, and so the team set about calculating how many he may have taken, based on the date the script was filled, the dosage, and then the number of missing tablets.

TIMELINE | How the net closed in on 'Jimmy' and how he fled

The reversal medication was administered and, to everybody's relief, the patient was revived.

He was taken in a very confused state to the Life Bayview Hospital in Mossel Bay where he was admitted to the intensive care unit.

Wiggett's podcasts detail how he tracked down Breytenbach, originally referred to under the pseudonym "Jimmy", who allegedly sexually assaulted many boys and young men since at least 1990, including Wiggett. "Jimmy loves the beach," Wiggett says repeatedly, referring to Breytenbach's many pictures on social media taken of him with younger men at the seaside.

Media24 conducts probe

The abuse allegations were reported to police on Monday and News24 is in possession of three statements implicating Breytenbach in the alleged grooming, sexual assault and what would today be regarded as the rape of minors. The police are investigating the case.

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

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

Media24 is also conducting its own investigation and, after checking his personnel files for the period he was employed from 1995 to 2014, found no trace of any such allegations against him. On Friday, Media24 CEO Ishmet Davidson asked staff with new information to come forward and report such information to the company and the police. 

  • The SA Depression and Anxiety Group's suicide crisis line number is 0800 567 567 for help, support, and somebody to talk to. They also offer online counselling between 8:00 and 16:00 on the same website.
  • The final episode of My Only Story will be published on November 28.

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.

News24 is owned by Media24, a division of Naspers.

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