There are three cars and a motorboat in the driveway, bright-pink bougainvillea bloom in the garden and on the gate a sign reads: “Don’t hoot. Ring the bell.”
All very suburban – not the type of place you’d expect to find someone who would be harbouring potential criminals.
Which is why residents of Knysna were aghast when the Hawks recently swooped in to arrest the husband and wife who lived in the home. Illegal firearms were allegedly found.
Now the coastal town is abuzz with gossip and speculation – what on earth could have happened?
Chris Boshoff (67) and his wife, Alice Abigail Boshoff (59), didn’t look like criminals, but now they’re both in custody on suspicion of conspiring to fake his death to cash in on an insurance policy.
It seems Chris, a man who owned a car repair business, isn’t who he spent decades pretending to be.
He is in fact believed to be Robbie Smith, a man who apparently died in a car crash 23 years ago in the Gauteng township of Vosloorus.
As it turns out, Robbie didn’t die. It has now emerged he allegedly faked his death, assumed a new identity and moved to Knysna after Old Mutual paid out a life insurance claim worth R1,7 million.
And Chris Boshoff is in fact the name of Robbie’s father-in-law, who died many years ago.
It’s the kind of story that raises a multitude of questions.
How did the couple manage to keep their presence here a secret for so long?
How was the fatal crash faked?
There’s talk of at least one daughter who also lives in Knysna who’d managed a crèche at one point. Others say there’s a son too, but no one is able to officially confirm it.
Court documents reveal the couple, who are originally from Boksburg, married in 1982 and have two grandchildren.
When we ring the bell of the couple’s home, a young man comes out.
He’s not sure of anything, he says when we tell him who we’re looking for. Then he walks back into the house behind its veil of greenery.
A short while later, a van stops in front of the house. The driver is much more talkative.
“Are you looking for Chris?” the man asks. “He’s in jail, my friend.
”The driver introduces himself as Mark Bouillon, owner of a business that maintains and waterproofs buildings.
He’s been a client of Chris’ business, Knysna Auto Repair, for the past three years. Mark’s girlfriend, Jess Dixon, who is with him in the car, also chats about Chris’ alleged fake identity.
“We don’t want to believe it. He used to fix cars for people who couldn’t pay him. And his wife, she’s an angel. She’s so kind,” Jess says.
“He’s an old-school mechanic,” Mark adds.
“He’d search far and wide for parts and if he couldn’t find it, he’d make it. He’d solve my problem in a jiffy.”
Jess sighs then expresses her anger over the whispers churning at the local gossip mill.
“It’s a helluva shock. People are talking so much s**t about them now. Maybe they were in dire straits. Who knows?”
The debacle was the main topic of conversation at local watering holes.
Some are worried because their vehicles are still in Chris’ workshop and they’re unsure how they’ll be get-ting them back.
The general consensus is that Chris and Alice didn’t allow anyone to get to know them well, but that Chris’ work ethic and generosity impressed many.
“I sometimes saw the old man, but he never came in here,” says Patrick Ngqula, the barman at Olde’s, the restaurant and bar closest to the Boshoff home.
Their neighbours across the street confirm the couple kept to themselves and didn’t really mingle.
At the laundromat, a stone’s throw from the Boshoff home, the manager, Lelanie Ruiters, tells us how things unfolded on 8 November, the day the Hawks staged their raid.
“I saw the Hawks vehicle there, but I was too busy to pay it much heed,” she says.
“I never saw the auntie – only later in the newspaper. Apparently, one of the neighbours is a detective who uncovered the whole thing.”
Knysna Auto Repair is about a kilometre away from the Boshoff home. The sign for the workshop is so faded only regular clients would know it’s there.
When we arrive, a woman is busy in the workshop, which resembles a large shed. Does she know the couple?
“No comment,” she says.
Chris often did business with Battery & Tyre World in Knysna. The owner, Rahasya Lavoipierre, says he feels sorry for his former business acquaintance as he’s apparently faced with “personal challenges” but he doesn’t elaborate.
He says Chris told people he was in the security forces during the apartheid era.
The Boshoffs also used to own a DVD shop in Knysna, says Blake Linder, editor of the local newspaper, the Knysna-Plett Herald, but the shop closed down.
Guardens Funeral Services is next to Chris’ workshop. “I’ve known him and his wife for 15 years,” says Joseph Tilling, owner of the funeral home.
He’s evidently still struggling to reconcile the claims against Chris with the person he knows.
“It was a big shock,” Joseph says. “He’s very helpful, loving and friendly. For example, he had cupboards fitted at a nearby kindergarten free of charge. Chris helped a lot of people who couldn’t pay. I’ve never heard any complaints about him or his workshop.”
It’s suspected that the couple moved from Gauteng to KwaZulu-Natal with their insurance money in the early 2000s and lived there for a while, Hawks spokesman Captain Lloyd Ramovha tells YOU.
They later moved to Knysna.“Old Mutual received a tip-off in 2020 that Robbie Smith was still alive and there had been an incident of fraud,” Ramovha says.
The matter was referred to the Hawks and they too smelt a rat.
They decided the best way to find out the truth was to pay the couple a surprise visit – and when they arrived, they apparently found Robbie alive and well.
At the time of going to print the couple appeared briefly in the Knysna magistrate’s court on charges of possession of illegal firearms and ammunition.
The case was postponed.
If they are granted bail at their next appearance they will be transported to Gauteng to stand trial for fraud as that was the province where the alleged crime was committed.
When YOU contacted the couple’s legal counsel, Dercksens Inc Attorneys in Knysna, they declined to comment. Old Mutual also didn’t want to comment on the matter as the case is still under investigation.