Tale of be­trayal at the hands of loved ones

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WHAT does Amor think hap­pened to the six kid­napped girls? “I don’t know, but if I look at my own life and ev­ery­thing I went through, I tend to think it’s prob­a­bly bet­ter if those chil­dren are dead.

“Truly, it’s enor­mously trau­matic when women go through things like that. It is clear to me that Gert raped the chil­dren.” Her face dark­ens. “And some­one like Yolanda, who grew up in a house where there was just love… it must have cracked her. That fam­ily was so close.”

We chat about Babs’s daugh­ter, Yolanda. That cousin of Amor who also landed in Joey’s and Gert’s evil web. Amor says that she had always been a lit­tle en­vi­ous of her cousins (Babs’s daugh­ters) be­cause of the won­der­ful re­la­tion­ship they had with their par­ents and be­cause of the clothes their par­ents bought for them.

“They were quite well off and they could look af­ter their chil­dren well.”

What kind of a child was Yolanda?

“She was a soft child. Sparkling. She was always laugh­ing. Yolanda had a bub­bly per­son­al­ity. But we weren’t re­ally friends, be­cause Yolanda was 14 years younger.”

What’s her re­la­tion­ship like with Babs?

“I have always loved Tan­nie Babs, and Tan­nie Pop­pie too.

“Tan­nie Babs only had girls. Five al­to­gether. Yolanda was the laat lam­metjie. She was 40 by the time she fell preg­nant with Yolanda.”

This aunt, who was very dear to Amor, never held her mother’s crimes against Amor.

“She never blamed me. Not at all. When she read the ar­ti­cle in Huisgenoot, the first thing she did was to con­tact Hilda van Dyk, the writer of the ar­ti­cle, and ask her for my con­tact de­tails.”

It warmed Amor’s heart when Babs called her and said: “It wasn’t your fault. I just want to tell you I want to hold you, give you a hug.”

“That’s the kind of per­son she is,” says Amor hoarsely.

It was the first time in years she’d had con­tact with Babs. Af­ter Gert’s and Joey’s crime spree, Amor lost con­tact with ev­ery­one in her fam­ily.

“This whole thing was frankly so trau­matic for all of us.”

While writ­ing the book, I get an SMS from Amor that says: “Tan­nie Babs died this evening.”

How heart­break­ing it is. This kind woman went to her grave with­out the mys­tery con­cern­ing her youngest daugh­ter’s dis­ap­pear­ance be­ing solved. For more than 25 years she had to live daily with the ten­sion and un­cer­tainty. She never had clo­sure.

There is still spec­u­la­tion about what might have hap­pened to the girls. Ten years ago, the TV ac­tu­al­ity mag­a­zine pro­gramme Carte Blanche, for in­stance, did an in­ves­ti­ga­tion.

The jour­nal­ist Su­san Puren and then the con­tro­ver­sial “peo­ple finder” Danie Krügel, a man who claimed that he had de­vel­oped tech­nol­ogy that could de­tect hu­man re­mains, was in­volved. Puren Po­lice in­ves­ti­ga­tors scour a site on a prop­erty ad­ja­cent to where pae­dophile Gert van Rooyen’s house once stood in Cap­i­tal Park, where three ob­jects were found, be­lieved to be bones. got hair sam­ples from the girls’ moth­ers, be­cause that was what Krügel’s tech­nol­ogy needed in or­der to find peo­ple. Carte Blanche then de­cided that the Univer­sity of Pre­to­ria’s ar­chae­ol­ogy de­part­ment should be brought in. The po­lice were not in­volved.

Ma­ri­etta The­unis­sen, the clair­voy­ant who pre­sented the show Aan die an­der kant (On the other side) on kykNET, was also rounded up. She pointed out the same area as Krügel with­out know­ing what he and Carte Blanche were up to. Krügel and The­unis­sen went sep­a­rately with Carte Blanche to a field a few kilo­me­tres from Gert’s house, where ex­ca­va­tions were done for seven days.

“In the fi­nal anal­y­sis, we re­ported on what we found – var­i­ous peo­ple’s skele­tal re­mains,” says Puren. Any DNA would be too badly dam­aged. It would also have been hope­lessly ex­pen­sive to carry on with the in­ves­ti­ga­tion.

The po­lice and the Na­tional Pros­e­cut­ing Au­thor­ity didn’t do any more ex­ca­va­tions and nor did they try to es­tab­lish who the re­mains be­longed to.

Last year, Natalie Grob­ler of the lo­cal news­pa­per Pre­to­ria Rekord re­ported, in a story un­der the head­line “Pae­dophile mys­tery con­tin­ues”, that the fam­i­lies of the six girls who dis­ap­peared with­out a trace con­tinue to live with grief and un­cer­tainty.

This drama, which par­tic­u­larly gripped res­i­dents of the Moot area in Pre­to­ria, has led to spec­u­la­tion and con­spir­acy the­o­ries for more than 25 years.

Sadly, the truth about the kid­napped Fiona Har­vey, Joan Horn, Anne-Marie Wape­naar, Odette Boucher, Yolanda Wes­sels and Tracy-Lee Scott-Cross­ley went to the grave with Gert and Joey.

Grob­ler re­ports on Mar­l­ize van der Merwe, a res­i­dent of Ri­et­fontein, who says that she and a friend al­most be­came Van Rooyen’s vic­tims when they were in Stan­dard 1 (now Grade 3) af­ter he and a woman stopped their car next to them and asked them for di­rec­tions.

Van der Merwe says that she was liv­ing in St Lu­cia in KwaZulu-Na­tal at the time. Gert and his part­ner were osten­si­bly looking for a cer­tain block of hol­i­day flats and asked whether the girls would get into his car and show them where it was.

The girls sensed dan­ger, how­ever, and ran away.

“Later that evening I recog­nised the man’s face on the pro­gramme Po­lice File,” she told Grob­ler.

Her mother was be­side her­self with worry and con­tacted the po­lice. Van der Merwe was ques­tioned. Luck­ily the girls kept their wits about them, but it was a nar­row es­cape. The other girls weren’t that lucky.

The South Coast Her­ald also re­ported last year that a woman from the South Coast es­caped Gert’s claws when she was still lit­tle. The woman asked to re­main anony­mous. The events that un­folded decades ago on a cold win­ter’s morn­ing at Wit­poortjie near Krugers­dorp on the West Rand still haunt her.

Ac­cord­ing to the news­pa­per, she speaks about them as though they took place yes­ter­day.

The woman who was al­most a vic­tim de­scribes her­self as some­one who was shy and petite at the time and who looked 11 years old, rather than 14.

That day, she caught the train to Rood­e­poort sta­tion to go and pay an ac­count for her mother and was on her way home when the in­ci­dent hap­pened.

She said that while she was sit­ting on a bench at the sta­tion wait­ing for the train, a man with curly black hair and pierc­ing eyes came and stood in front of her, in­tro­duced him­self to her and of­fered to give her a lift.

It was cold, she knew she was go­ing to have to wait a long time for the next train and, against her bet­ter judge­ment, she got into a lit­tle car that looked like a Volk­swa­gen Bee­tle with the man.

Then the man started rub­bing her knee and told her she was a good child and that her mother would be proud of her. That’s when the hair on the back of her neck stood up, she be­gan to breathe faster and her head be­gan to spin.

When she re­alised the man was plan­ning to take an off-ramp to Krugers­dorp, she swung open the door, jumped out of the car and man­aged to es­cape.

Years later, when she heard the word “se­rial killer” on TV, Gert van Rooyen’s face ap­peared on the screen.

She says her throat dried up and her knees went lame. She recog­nised his eyes.

Ex­tract from Bat­tered abused shamed – Joey Haarhoff was my mother, LAPA pub­lish­ers (2016).

PIC­TURE: PHILL MAGAKOE

PIC­TURE: SUN­DAY TRI­BUNE AR­CHIVES

Amor van der Wes­tuyzen tells her story

Author Carla van der Spuy

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