The Lost Boys of Bird Island: Police breathe new life into 'cold case of over 30 years' as they probe apartheid's alleged paedophiles

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

An alleged paedophile ring dating back more than 30 years and allegedly involving senior members of the National Party government is under police investigation, Tafelberg Publishers revealed on Tuesday.

The allegations of the ring are contained in the book The Lost Boys of Bird Island by former police officer Mark Minnie and journalist Chris Steyn. In August, Minnie was found dead at his friend's farm in Port Elizabeth.

The book was published by Tafelberg Publishers.

"Several people with knowledge of the alleged paedophile ring have given valuable information to the police. A number of victims have come forward and have given written statements of alleged sexual abuse related to the allegations in the book," the publisher said in a statement. 

Tafelberg approached the South African Police Service (SAPS) on September 6 with new information that had come to light after the publication of the book. 

"The police opened an investigation, led by the Western Cape head of the family violence unit, Brigadier Sonja Harri," it said.

Author cooperating with police

Minnie died from a single gunshot wound to the head a week after the book was published.

Since then Steyn has been subjected to repeated intimidation attempts, the publisher said.

"Despite this, Steyn has continued investigating and following up on leads. She has cooperated fully with the police probe from the start." 

Steyn has been obtaining permission from sources to share their identities with the police, and she has also been convincing people to make statements and give affidavits, the statement said. 

"News of the police investigation has been kept quiet for this long to give investigators space to do their work.

"During this time Tafelberg and Steyn did not release any new information to the media so as not to compromise the work of the police. Both the publisher and author are grateful to the police for being prepared to devote scarce resources to a cold case of over 30 years," said the statement.

Experienced police detective assigned

Tafelberg Publishers said the matter was also under investigation by the Foundation for Human Rights. 

"To this end the foundation briefed a forensic expert to examine Minnie's body in order to determine the circumstances around his death.

"The finding of the forensic expert was inconclusive. The initial report of the investigator commissioned by the foundation to trace witnesses mentioned in the book has been handed to the SAPS child protection unit." 

The Lost Boys of Bird Island was written and published in the hope that a proper investigation would be conducted on the allegations for the very first time, Tafelberg said.

"That is finally happening now. This means that people who are still fearful for their own safety and that of their families, can now come forward without fear that their identities will be revealed."

The police confirmed that an investigation into the allegations was underway, but declined to give more details.

"Out of respect for the process as well as the subjects of this probe, details at this stage cannot be divulged. An experienced detective in matters of this nature has been assigned to lead the investigation as this case is accorded the status that similar cases get," said spokesperson Brigadier Novella Potelwa.

BOOK EXTRACT: The Lost Boys of Bird Island - We called him 'Ore'

I head back to my office so that I can listen closely to the recording of the older brother's version of events. I will have to anchor my investigation on the evidence of both brothers. I don't have anything else to go on at this point.

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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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