'Rapport' apologises for publishing 'Bird Island' paedophile accusations against NP ministers

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The Lost Boys of Bird Island by Tafelberg Publishers.
The Lost Boys of Bird Island by Tafelberg Publishers.

Afrikaans Sunday newspaper Rapport has apologised for publishing accusations of sexual assault made against National Party ministers in the controversial book, The Lost Boys of Bird Island by former policeman Mark Minnie and ex-journalist Chris Steyn. 

According to the book, three former National Party ministers, including strongman Magnus Malan and John Wiley, have been named as central figures in a paedophilia ring that operated during apartheid.

Both former ministers are deceased. 

A third former minister was not named in the book, but former finance minister Barend du Plessis publicly stated that he believed he was being implicated and strongly denied the allegations. 

According to the book, the three were involved, along with disgraced Port Elizabeth businessman John Allen, in ferrying coloured minors to Bird Island in Algoa Bay near Port Elizabeth where the children were molested and forced to satisfy the older men's sexual fantasies.

Since publication, investigations into the authenticity of the claims were reportedly conducted by private investigator, Wouter de Swardt, on behalf of the Human Rights Commission; Jacques Pauw, an investigative journalist at Vrye Weekblad and best-selling author; and Derek Watts of M-Net's Carte Blanche.

Scathing review

In September last year, News24 carried an exclusive, scathing review of the book by Pauw. 

Pauw wrote: "It is ultimately a tragedy that Minnie botched the Bird Island investigation. The lost boys deserved better but as a result, there are virtually no detail of the events that took place."

In an email to publisher Maryna Lamprecht of Tafelberg, a subsidiary of NB Publishers, sent two weeks before his suicide and four days before the book's publication, Minnie wrote: "We have no concrete evidence that any of the three ministers sexually assaulted any of the victims [mentioned in the book]," Vrye Weekblad reported.

In an editorial on Sunday, Rapport wrote "it was a mistake" to have carried the story. 

Following the publication of the book, Rapport's journalists independently followed up on several of the accusations made in the book, it wrote. 

"But none of the damaging accusations could be independently verified and our reporters could find no concrete evidence thereof," it wrote.

'Evidence on the way'

"Steyn and ... Minnie were adamant that evidence was on its way," Rapport said.

"Knowing what we do now, Rapport should have treated the publication of the allegations made in the book, as published on August 5 2018, differently. We apologise to our readers, Barend du Plessis, and the families of Magnus Malan and John Wiley."

Following the debunking of the allegations contained in the book, Steyn last week issued a statement saying she had taken a polygraph test regarding the factual accuracy of the book. 

"I have taken a 'lie detector' test following claims that I fabricated allegations in The Lost Boys of Bird Island," Steyn said. 

"It is the expert opinion... that I was truthful when answering 'no' to... questions about whether I falsified any of the allegations or information sources in the book," Steyn said.

Tafelberg Publishers said in an earlier statement: "NB Publishers maintains that the information contained in the book is credible and in the public interest. Many key aspects of the investigation have been confirmed by members of the media who had independently investigated the allegations following the book's publication."

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UPDATE | Media24 has apologised for the publication of defamatory statements regarding Mr Barend Du Plessis in the books "The Lost Boys of Bird Island" and "Die Seuns Van Bird Island" and for the emotional harm that the publication of the books may have caused the Malan and Wiley families. Follow this link to the relevant apologies.

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