Is the ‘God­fa­ther of the West Rand’ still alive?

Saturday Star - - METRO -

RALPH Haynes is alive and dead. He’s in South Africa and out of the coun­try. He’s a cut-throat con-artist and the nicest guy you’ll ever meet. De­pend­ing on who you ask, you’ll get a dif­fer­ent ver­sion of the man who has been con­tro­ver­sially la­belled the “God­fa­ther of the West Rand”. But one thing is cer­tain: there are a lot of peo­ple who want to find him.

His wife, Jacky, has spent the past seven years deal­ing with a po­lice in­ves­ti­ga­tion that went nowhere, be­ing placed un­der in­ves­ti­ga­tion her­self and fear­ing she will never know what hap­pened to her hus­band.

“I’ve never had the chance to grieve. I’ve been so in­volved in all of this non­sense go­ing on around me that I’ve never dealt with what hap­pened.”

The last time Haynes was seen was on Jan­uary 21, 2011, climb­ing into a he­li­copter be­long­ing to Mid­del­burg busi­ness­man, Frikkie Lut­skie.

Among those who wit­nessed this was Dawie Lot­ter, Haynes’ long-time friend and as­so­ciate, and Jacky’s new part­ner.

Haynes had al­legedly been con­tacted by Lut­skie in the days lead­ing up to his dis­ap­pear­ance, the busi­ness­man ask­ing Haynes for help as­sess­ing the value of some gold which he had ac­quired.

He had agreed to meet with Lut­skie at the Kitty Hawk aero­drome on the out­skirts of Pre­to­ria that Fri­day, tak­ing Lot­ter with him.

Lot­ter re­mem­bers the day – down to the small­est de­tail. He re­mem­bers buy­ing two En­er­gades at the airstrip’s cafe­te­ria shortly be­fore Lut­skie landed his he­li­copter, how he had been told to hold Haynes’ drink while he went to speak pri­vately with Lut­skie.

“He liked to do busi­ness by him­self. I thought they would do their one-on-one talk­ing by them­selves,” he re­mem­bers.

Haynes boarded the chop­per, with Lut­skie help­ing him to fix his seat­belt, and then the pair flew off. “Not a word to me. I’m stand­ing with the two cold drinks there on the ve­randa.”

Lot­ter says this wasn’t to­tally un­com­mon, he wouldn’t of­ten be privy to his friend’s meet­ings.

But he de­cided to wait, un­til he re­ceived a call at around 1.30pm from Haynes say­ing that he wouldn’t need trans­port back, as “ev­ery­thing had been sorted”.

That was the last time he would hear from Haynes, who he claims was un­reach­able af­ter that phone call.

Jacky and her hus­band had plans that night, and when she was un­able to reach him, she called Lot­ter to find out where he was.

A se­ries of phone calls to all in­volved failed to lo­cate him, though Jacky claims she con­tacted one of Haynes’ con­tacts, con­tro­ver­sial busi­ness­man Zu­naid Moti, who suc­cess­fully traced his phone to a veld in Mid­del­burg.

Af­ter re­port­ing him miss­ing to the po­lice – in­clud­ing the of­fi­cer in­ves­ti­gat­ing Haynes’ al­legedly dodgy busi­ness deal­ings, Luke Enslin – Lot­ter and his crew went to check the veld in Mid­del­burg. They found noth­ing, apart from some clothes that ul­ti­mately did not be­long to Haynes.

When con­fronted, Lut­skie had told in­ves­ti­ga­tors that upon land­ing his he­li­copter, he had given Haynes a bakkie to drive home, and that was the last he had seen of him.

Lot­ter is con­vinced that it would have been dif­fi­cult for Haynes to drive such a ve­hi­cle, as he usu­ally used au­to­matic cars fol­low­ing the loss of his leg in a mo­tor­cy­cle ac­ci­dent.

“You wouldn’t catch him driv­ing a Ban­tam bakkie,” says Lot­ter.

The bakkie was later found aban­doned with bro­ken win­dows near Bronkhorstspruit, but its un­der­stood there was no ev­i­dence that Haynes had been in­side the ve­hi­cle.

Haynes’ dis­ap­pear­ance en­tered the me­dia spot­light, and his con­nec­tion to Lut­skie was widely re­ported. A 2013 piece in the Daily Mav­er­ick re­ported that in the build up to Haynes’ dis­ap­pear­ance, Lut­skie was set to pay him R400 000 to look into a sus­pected at­tempt on his life.

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