Tale of betrayal at the hands of loved ones
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).
Amor van der Westuyzen tells her story
Author Carla van der Spuy