Pe­ti­tion to re­open Van Rooyen killings case

‘Par­ents want to know where six girls are’

Weekend Argus (Saturday Edition) - - METRO - SHAUN SMILLIE

THIRTY years ago, the last of Gert van Rooyen’s six known vic­tims dis­ap­peared.

Thir­teen-year-old Yolanda Wes­sels, niece of Van Rooyen’s part­ner, Joey Haarhoff, was last seen on Novem­ber 3, 1989, and since then both the po­lice and arm­chair sleuths have tried to es­tab­lish what hap­pened to Wes­sels and the other five girls.

Over the last three decades it has be­come per­haps South Africa’s most no­to­ri­ous cold case and now, on the eve of the 30th an­niver­sary of the case, an un­usual ini­tia­tive has been launched to pres­surise the po­lice into find­ing the girls.

An on­line pe­ti­tion has called on Po­lice Min­is­ter Bheki Cele to ap­point a new in­ves­ti­gat­ing of­fi­cer to the case.

“We de­mand that the par­ents get an­swers. Many peo­ple have frac­tured in­for­ma­tion and it is time that we get an in­ves­ti­gat­ing of­fi­cer who can put these puz­zle pieces to­gether and give these age­ing par­ents peace of mind,” the pe­ti­tion says.

It was started on Jan­uary 2, on the web­site Pe­ti­tions24, and by Thurs­day, 629 peo­ple had signed it.

While it hasn’t gar­nered a lot of sup­port as yet, crim­i­nol­o­gist Pro­fes­sor Ru­dolph Zinn of Unisa be­lieves it could have an in­flu­ence on the case.

“What it should achieve, at least, is for the com­mis­sioner to look into the mer­its of what peo­ple are say­ing, to find out if this in­ves­ti­ga­tor is not do­ing what he is sup­posed to do, if he is not giv­ing feed­back to the fam­i­lies.

“If found to be rea­son­able, then he can change the in­ves­ti­ga­tor. That is fairly nor­mal prac­tice in the po­lice,” Zinn said. The cre­ator of the pe­ti­tion, who wishes to re­main anony­mous, says she plans to send it to Cele, once there are enough sig­na­tures.

She did not say how many needed to be col­lected be­fore the de­ci­sion would be made to for­ward the pe­ti­tion.

Zinn adds that while the SAPS doesn’t have a ded­i­cated cold case in­ves­tiga­tive units, as in some other coun­tries, the pro­ce­dure is for older cases to be pe­ri­od­i­cally re­viewed.

“A murder case that is not solved re­mains open for­ever. These open cases are sup­posed to be brought for­ward and this is usu­ally done on a yearly ba­sis, but in prac­tice it is (done in a) three- to five-year pe­riod.

“The in­ves­ti­ga­tor will then look at the case docket again and fol­low up new leads,” Zinn said.

Van Rooyen, a builder, was be­lieved to have ab­ducted the girls be­tween Au­gust 1, 1988, and Novem­ber 3, 1989, and was thought to have used Haarhoff to ap­proach the girls.

On Jan­uary 11, 1990 Haarhoff ab­ducted 16-year-old Joan Booy­sen and took her to Van Rooyen’s house in Pre­to­ria.

Booy­sen later es­caped and alerted the po­lice, and when Van Rooyen dis­cov­ered his in­tended vic­tim had es­caped, he shot and killed Haarhoff, be­fore killing him­self.

Since then, the search has tried to find where Van Rooyen dumped the bod­ies of his vic­tims. In June 2017, SAPS foren­sic in­ves­ti­ga­tors ex­ca­vated a num­ber of sites around Blythedale Beach, north of Dur­ban, where it was sus­pected that the vic­tims were buried.

Van Rooyen was known to have spent his fi­nal hol­i­day in the vicin­ity.

As the decades pass, the chances of lo­cat­ing the girls grows slim­mer, but some be­lieve there is hope that the case can be solved.

A pri­vate in­ves­ti­ga­tor who has solved cold cases be­lieves old-fash­ioned de­tec­tive work could point to where the girls are.

The PI, who prefers to re­main anony­mous, says, “you have to start from scratch; you would start with get­ting the dock­ets (and) get­ting the state­ments taken back then”.

“You would build up a time­line and an organogram on each child.”

It is an in­ves­ti­ga­tion, he says, that would in­clude a de­tailed ex­am­i­na­tion of the lives of Van Rooyen and Haarhoff, “that Van Rooyen was a builder – it doesn’t take a rocket sci­en­tist as to where to start with the in­ves­ti­ga­tion”. “Those girls have got to be some­where.”

Joey Haarhof and Gert van Rooyen

Newspapers in English

Newspapers from South Africa

© PressReader. All rights reserved.