Inge Lotz murder: People around me believe I'm innocent - Fred van der Vyver on new News24 podcast

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In this six-part podcast series, producers Matthew Brown and Catherine Rice meet an FBI expert, a painting forgery sleuth, and uncover a shocking confession.
In this six-part podcast series, producers Matthew Brown and Catherine Rice meet an FBI expert, a painting forgery sleuth, and uncover a shocking confession.
  • On 16 March 2005, the bloodied body of 22-year-old Inge Lotz was discovered in her Stellenbosch apartment.
  • From early on, police believed the crime could only have been perpetrated by somebody close to her and zoned in on her then-boyfriend Fred van der Vyver.
  • His family consulted globally respected experts in a bid to find the truth.
  • In this six-part podcast series, News24 takes you back to the beginning, examines the evidence, and the mistakes made.
  • And in his first-ever on-camera interview, Van der Vyver details his experiences.

Fred van der Vyver, the actuary who was accused of the brutal murder of Stellenbosch University student Inge Lotz more than a decade ago, says people around him believe in his innocence – and he has made peace with how people view him.

The former murder-accused and Lotz's then-boyfriend spoke to News24 for a new podcast series called The Inge Lotz Story: A Miscarriage of Justice, which launches today.

He said:

"I've almost made peace with the fact that whether that person is found or not will not define my status of being innocent of this crime, so I carry on living a life of moving forward – and obviously viewing myself as innocent of this crime.

"But also assuming the people around me, and the people involved in my life do not have to wait for the actual perpetrator to be found before they make up their mind about me. And so that is a liberating way of looking at it."

Van der Vyver's name remains inextricably interlinked with Lotz's murder, a pall of suspicion in some quarters continues to hang over him. In his first interview on camera, he details his experiences – the loss of the love of his life and the subsequent horror of being accused of her murder.

Twenty-two-year-old Lotz was stabbed and bludgeoned to death in her Stellenbosch apartment on 16 March 2005. Her savage murder made local and international headlines. But 16 years later, the perpetrator remains out there, somewhere, enjoying undeserved freedom.

News24, in this six-part podcast series, takes you back to the beginning of the case. We start on the day Lotz's body was found, the investigation that followed, Van der Vyver's arrest and the aftermath.

The series also uncovers a twist that has never before been revealed – a report from a senior police officer written in 2008, in which he recommends a suspect who confessed to being involved in the crime but who was never charged, should be investigated.

The beginning

Lotz was both beautiful and brilliant – an only child with an infectious laugh and radiant smile. On the day of her death, she had returned home to relax on her couch and watch a DVD. Without warning, she was attacked from behind, her life brutally snuffed out. It was a swift killing, excessively violent. Police believed the crime could only have been perpetrated by somebody close to her.

It was a theory they doggedly believed, which led them to arrest Van der Vyver. But could the killer have been a stranger in a drug-fuelled frenzy, or could it have been a robbery gone wrong? These were the questions producers Matthew Brown and Catherine Rice would ask as they sifted through the evidence, trying to untangle fact from fiction.

The State's evidence against Van der Vyver seemed watertight. His fingerprints were allegedly found on the DVD Lotz had rented that afternoon. Police believed his sports shoe had left a bloody print on the bathroom floor. An ornamental hammer given him by Lotz's parents appeared to match the wounds on her skull. And a letter she had written to Van der Vyver apologising after an argument provided police with a motive.

But, Van der Vyver insisted he hadn't done it and provided police with a complete alibi.

Over the next two years, his defence team sought to slowly turn the tables on the police, accusing them of perjury, incompetence and evidence tampering – and after a mammoth trial, he was acquitted.

Lotz's death to this day continues to confound those who followed the developments closely. Police investigators have never seriously investigated any other suspect, and most of the physical evidence in the case has since been lost.

Puzzle pieces

In this podcast series, we interrogate each piece of evidence, and a part of the puzzle largely ignored – Werner Carolus' confession.

Carolus, a known tik addict with a lengthy criminal record, specialised in housebreaking. He came forward, claiming involvement in the murder, and was prepared to enter into a plea bargain with the State for his role in the crime. Yet, his claims were ultimately ignored.

In 2008, top cop Piet Viljoen was tasked with investigating whether Carolus was guilty of defeating the ends of justice. After all, according to police who had investigated Lotz's murder, Carolus had changed his story repeatedly and wasted precious police time and resources. The revelations in Viljoen's report were startling.

To read more and listen to our full series, click here: The Inge Lotz Story: A Miscarriage of Justice

He believed police should not be investigating Carolus for defeating the ends of justice, but rather for Lotz's murder. He also questioned why Carolus had offered to enter into a plea deal of 10 years' direct imprisonment if he hadn't been involved in the murder.

News24 confirmed the contents of the report with Viljoen himself, who stands by his convictions to this day.

In his report, he states: "My personal opinion once again is that Werner Carolus was never properly investigated to see if he has anything to do with this murder".

Later in the report, he states: "The writer of this information note feels that an investigator should be appointed to investigate the Lotz murder in full and to see if Werner Carolus is not involved in the murder. At this stage, Werner Carolus cannot be charged for defeating the end of justice and my investigation cannot be done [sic]."

Search for answers

The producer of the series, Matthew Brown, began his own investigations almost 10 years ago. It was an investigation that took him from the small, picturesque town of Stellenbosch to the US, where he interviewed the FBI agent who took down OJ Simpson, and a fingerprint expert who spotted a Jackson Pollock forgery, purchased for millions.

Joining forces with News24 and co-producer Catherine Rice in January 2021, Brown continued his quest for answers, tracking down those Carolus implicated, where they are now, and whether the investigation remains active.

Together, they trawled through the countless interviews trying to make sense of a case that destroyed the lives of not one, but two families.

In this podcast series, News24 navigates the complexities of a case that speaks to the greater issues within our justice system, and one the FBI now uses as a cautionary tale of what not to do.

Video clips, filmed by Brown, accompany each podcast, bringing to life many of the characters who formed the core of the investigations. This is a story that fascinated the public from day one. It's a story that continues to haunt those who lived in its aftermath. And it's a story that must not be forgotten.

As we bring the case back into the forefront of the public imagination, it is our hope that new evidence will emerge and ultimately that justice for Inge Lotz will prevail.

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