Authors: Ian Patrick
Tags: #Mystery; Thriller & Suspense, #Mystery, #International Mystery & Crime, #Thrillers & Suspense, #Crime, #Thrillers
about your nice Mr Thando.’
‘I have to take you back to my first
day in the job in Greytown. I was so depressed that first day. I was missing
all of you guys, and my family, and I missed my flat in Musgrave, and I didn’t
know anyone up there. The commander of the unit gave me a brief orientation but
then he thought the best way to show me the work they did was to tell me to just
go through the files and read up on some of the worst cases they’d handled.
Navi, I can’t tell you how depressed I was. I read on that first night.
Right through the night.
One file after
Right through the night.
about such terrible things...’
‘I can imagine. I know about some of
the things the Family Violence teams have to deal with.’
‘But finally I identified this one
man. The one I’m calling Thando. It took a long time before I started looking
at the specific man instead of just reading more and more of those individual
cases. At first I started putting all of the files with the same kind of crime
in one pile. I couldn’t believe what I was reading there, but then I started
seeing a pattern. Same method.
Same kind of situation.
Same kind of witness statements.
I began to realise
that in a whole lot of cases covering many years the perpetrator could have
been the same man...’
Mavis took Pillay through what she
had found in the files. The man she had come to focus upon was as devious a
customer as the South African Police Service in KwaZulu-Natal had ever
encountered, she said. He had consciously and very deliberately used at least
four identities over sustained periods, and had invoked half a dozen other
identities for short-term purposes on other occasions. His various forged
identity documents were as expert as any seen by the SAPS. He had been arrested
on numerous occasions and he had constantly avoided incarceration in prison by
allegedly bribing police and court officials, threatening witnesses, and
intimidating relatives and friends of his various victims. On two occasions he
had walked straight out of two different station charge offices by producing ID
documents proving they had arrested the wrong man. On another occasion he was
alleged to have purchased the docket that had been opened in a case of assault
with GBH and then he added insult to injury when he walked out of the court
building with a huge smile and with a package tucked under his arm. Some people
said they thought it was the docket itself, but he was gone before anyone could
verify this. Shortly thereafter the key witness suffered grievous bodily harm
by persons unknown. On yet another occasion he was rumoured to have eliminated
the single witness to the murder he had been questioned about just two days
previously. At one point a detective had written a note on one of the files to
the effect that the man had tried to avoid detection through fingerprints
because, according to a laboratory report, he had washed his hands in acidic
compounds over a sustained period of time. Instead of this information being
properly documented and shared across the province, it had disappeared into the
individual file. It had taken the arrival of student intern Mavis Tshabalala to
have all the information from different files properly
recorded in matrix form, and logged.
All of this information had a
history in the files that Mavis had painstakingly put together and then studied
day and night. The historical record on the man she identified as Thando
started as gossip, assumption and surmise, moving to hearsay and then to hard
testimony, supported only much later on by irrefutable evidence. The man had
been slippery at the beginning, but gradually the case had been built up
Pillay grew increasingly incensed as
she heard about the litany of police errors, obvious miscarriages of justice,
and blatant bribery and corruption that hung over the man.
‘I can’t stand hearing this kind of
stuff, Mavis. I get so
know? It makes me want to get out there and take down more of these guys.’
‘I know, Navi. Part of what I agreed
with my supervisor is that in re-visiting all the information for my
dissertation I’ll show step-by-step some of the mistakes made by the police so
that I can argue the case for tighter controls over evidence-gathering,
processing, and monitoring.’
She drained her coffee before
continuing with her narrative.
Wakashe, Mgwazeni and Thabethe
started their day in high spirits. After complaining bitterly to one another
about the unbearable heat, and having had to squeeze into a packed taxi with no
air conditioning, they couldn’t believe their good fortune when they finally
alighted at a supermarket and found that not one of the stolen
had been cancelled. They went from one ATM to
another, and doubled the previous day’s cash withdrawals within twenty minutes.
They left the last of the ATMs cackling together in good humour.
‘You think we can try again
tomorrow, Skhura? These
guards, maybe they are that stupid? That dead one, maybe his family is as
stupid as him and they won’t cancel his cards until next month?’
Thabethe replied to Wakashe. ‘Maybe. That dead one, that
guard, we called him
me and Mgwazeni
That dirty fly
he is not putting his eggs in dead men. Now it is him who the maggots are
eating. Maybe when those maggots they come to his brain they will say
Eish! There is nothing here
‘Is right, Skhura,’ Mgwazeni
. Maybe his wife and
children they are stupid like him. Maybe they won’t think about the bank cards
until there is no money left.’
They were now back at the scene they
had observed the previous day. Thabethe’s two friends were ecstatic. They were
watching the four boys treble the value of Thabethe’s investment. The money was
rolling in. Thabethe had bought only a few thousand rands worth of the drugs, receiving
an additional agreement from the supplier that he would recommend Thabethe to a
friend who also had access to a supply. Another few thousand rands worth of
supplies could be purchased later in the day. They would send a messenger to
Thabethe to provide instructions about where and when.
For now, Thabethe was satisfied with
his team of youngsters. He paid them well, and his price to the buyers was
higher than that of his competitors, but it was all playing out perfectly.
The ten-year old walked across to
Thabethe during a lull in the action. He told Thabethe about another location
where they could work for him, not far from where they were now, where there
were lots of young people who paid big money for
. Thabethe resolved to check it out with the youngster at
the end of the current session.
The boy ran off to take up his
position as a car appeared at the top of the street. False alarm. The car
simply drove down the street into the distance. They waited. Then the
eighteen-year old received a call on his iPhone. He spoke for a few seconds,
closed down the call, and came across to where Thabethe and Wakashe and
Mgwazeni were sitting on the kerb. He spoke rapidly, in Zulu, and Thabethe
responded in Zulu.
‘This man is with five friends and
they’re talking about getting some
They don’t have a car but they know we can get the stuff for them. They want to
hit a house with rich people tomorrow and they want the stuff before tonight.’
just so they can hit a house?’
‘Yes. I know these ones. They do bad
things. But they always need
before they hit the houses or do the mugging.’
‘I know guys like that,’ added
Wakashe. ‘They’re normal guys like us and then they do
and then they do bad things and they become like dogs.’
‘This stuff it burns the brains,’
said Thabethe to the youngster. ‘You’re not going to smoke it yourself,
You want the burnt brains, too?’
Not me, Skhura,’ said the young man. ‘Me, I’m selling only. I’m not smoking. What
must I tell this guy?’
Thabethe told him to arrange with
the contact to meet for a special sale. They discussed the place and the time.
The six men wanted it almost immediately, within the hour if at all possible,
the young man said. To him, the guys seemed desperate. They would want to get
the stuff very quickly. Thabethe paused and thought. Then he decided the
urgency could mean a significantly increased price. He gave his instructions.
The sale wouldn’t follow the normal procedure, but the eighteen-year old would
because he said he knew these men.
The youngster walked off, making his call on the iPhone as he did so.
Business returned to normal and
during the course of the very next trade the boy came back to give Thabethe the
details about the special sale.
Within the hour.
less. They were on their way.
These men must be desperate, thought
Pillay looked on in admiration as
her young companion continued with her story.
The work on the files in Greytown was
undertaken by Mavis not only during the day in the office but also in her
private lodgings on weekends and during most evenings. Her fascination with her
subject matter, she told Pillay, frequently transported her into the depths of
despair, and had occasionally lifted her into the foothills of optimism as she
put together connections and established various links.
Apart from his expertise in identity
theft, forgery, and circumventing the criminal justice system, the man who had
become named by
as Thando would become infamous,
once his past crimes were linked by her, for a four-year reign of terror
commencing in 2010 during the football frenzy of that year in South Africa.
With the football world cup dominating the headlines, there was only scant
reporting of the crimes perpetrated by the man. He had raped more than a dozen
women, most of them in front of their partners. He appeared to have taken
malicious pleasure in tying up partners and forcing them to observe his
‘My boss in the unit told the
Greytown Station Commander about the work I was doing, Navi. I was very scared
one day, about three weeks after I had started, when the SC came in to see me.
He’s a Lieutenant Colonel. I was surprised to hear that. He was a nice man, but
he was a full Station Commander and I couldn’t help comparing him with Captain
Nyawula, who is only...’
‘I know what you mean, Mavis. It’s
only when you meet Sibo that you realise that quality in bosses has nothing to
do with rank. But I hear on the grapevine that he’s due for promotion very
soon. It’s an outrage that he’s still only a captain.’
‘Yes, I agree. Anyway, the SC told
me he was pleased with the work I was doing, and they were so understaffed, and
I could pop in to ask him any questions, and all of that. So I felt more
confident about the work I was doing. Then I began to see something else in the
‘OK, Mavis’ said Pillay. ‘Now you’ve
got me excited. I’m thinking you’re going to tell me something sensational.’
‘Well, the main reason I started
thinking the criminals I was reading about could have been the same man, is
this. I was looking at all the cases that involved some kind of sexual
violence. I had to make some summary notes on each of the cases before I logged
them onto the system. After a while I started to see a pattern, so I developed
a chart for recording different kinds of sexual assault and different methods
used by the perpetrators. In many of the cases a couple - always a man
and a woman, and usually a very young couple - were hijacked by a
in his late twenties or early thirties working alone, without an
They were taken by this man
to a dark and
deserted area where the husband or boyfriend would be tied up and the woman was
raped. In all of the cases the man had to watch the woman being assaulted. In
all of the cases both the man and the woman were tortured before the woman was
violated. Then their
were stolen and used
within twenty-four hours before being thrown away. In every case the people who
were attacked gave almost exactly the same witness statement. They said the man
had demanded the pin number of their
otherwise the woman would be killed. In every case they gave the pin number.
And in every case a few hundred rands were drawn out of their accounts - mostly
nine hundred rands, and always less than one thousand rands - and then their
disappeared. In each case the thief made one
withdrawal and then probably threw away the card.’
‘Bastard. He clearly knew the
system, and the typical one thousand rand ceiling.’
‘But, Navi, what happened next was
interesting. After I studied closely eight of the files where exactly the same
thing had happened, I went to see the Lieutenant Colonel again. I asked him for
permission to take the eight files to Forensics in Durban, to see if they could
help with finding more links between each of the cases, and he said yes. So I
took the files and came down to Durban and saw Nadine and Pauline. I made a
special trip down from Greytown to Forensics to see them. Actually, I popped in
here on the day I arrived, hoping to see you and the others, but everyone was
out on the road.’