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South Africa’s most celebrated detective has answered a father’s cry for help and started the hunt for a murderer who has evaded justice for seven years.
This development came on Tuesday as legendary killer-hunter Piet Byleveld flew from Joburg to Cape Town and met Professor Jan Lotz, father of slain Matie Inge Lotz.
The brilliant student was bludgeoned to death at the age of 22 in her Stellenbosch flat on the afternoon of March 16, 2005.
Soon after the discovery of her body, her boyfriend, Fred Van der Vyver, emerged as the prime suspect.
But in a trial described by investigative author Anthony Altbeker as “one of the most sensational and controversial murder trials in SA legal history”, Judge Deon van Zyl rejected all aspects of the State’s case and acquitted Van der Vyver on November 29, 2007.
No one has since been tried or convicted of the murder.
Two weeks ago, Lotz told the Cape Argus: “I need peace, before I depart from this world. And that peace can only happen when I know. I am offering a personal reward of R1 million for any information which leads to the successful prosecution of a party or parties in connection with the murder of my daughter.”
As of Tuesday, his daughter’s killer or killers are being hunted by Byleveld, who retired from the SAPS at the end of June 2010. Byleveld now works for private security company CSS Tactical.
His CV on the company website records how “Byleveld solved many high profile cases, such as the Sheldean Human murder (2006), the Leigh Matthews abduction and murder (2004), Johannesburg mine dump serial killer (2003), the Hillbrow serial rapist (2003) and the Kranskop serial killer (1996)”.
“This dedicated and thorough Investigation Officer will leave no stone unturned to bring offenders to book. His efforts have been consistently rewarded by the SAPS and he has received numerous medals for combating terrorism, faithful service, long service and he is one of only seven police officers to date who have received the prestigious SAPS Commendation Medal.”
Asked if it was possible that evidence could still exist, Byleveld told the Cape Argus: “In any murder case, there is always the possibility of evidence you can use. If evidence exists, I will do my utmost best to find it.”
Byleveld works in partnership with Bushy Engelbrecht, another celebrated senior former policeman.
According to his CV, Engelbrecht has supervised numerous high profile investigations, including the politically motivated Shobashobane massacres in Port Shepstone and the Richmond (KZN) killings.
Lotz, speaking at his home in Welgemoed, told the Cape Argus: “I put a million rand on the table, and I needed probably the best I could find. In my mind, I could not have found a better man than Piet Byleveld.”
Lotz put up the money about 10 days ago for anyone who could help in catching his daughter’s killer.
Asked by the Cape Argus whether he had concerns about his or his wife’s personal safety by offering the massive reward, he told the Cape Argus recently: “So be it. Without this knowledge, my life is nothing. It’s not vengeance I am seeking, it’s not retribution.
“I can’t live without knowing. I just want the truth. Today, I am not living… I am just existing.”
Of Byleveld’s plan, he said on Tuesday: “Piet will be the leading investigator, backed up by teams in Johannesburg and Cape Town. I will be paying him as a normal client.
“I would like Mr Byleveld to provide me with the answer to ‘who killed Inge Lotz on March 16, 2005?’ “
Asked if he needed her killer to be jailed, he said: “No, I just want the answer.”
Lotz said he had been impressed when Byleveld told him he would be re-investigating the case from scratch.
“He said: ‘Always starts at the very beginning. Everything that is on the table will be looked at.’”
Asked whether he and his wife, Juanita, would find it difficult to endure the re-examination of all the evidence yet again, he said: “I think my wife finds it difficult, but she’s positive – as I am – that we are on the right track.”
Furthermore, Lotz said he was greatly encouraged by information relating to the case sent to his attorney in Bloemfontein since posting the R1m reward.
“The response has been beyond our expectation. A whole series of things, some very interesting information (had been submitted). We’re doing a sifting process and that information we believe important will be sent to Mr Byleveld,” Lotz said.
The Cape Argus approached Altbeker with the news, and he said: “Good luck to them. A lot of people have been trying.”
Altbeker said he believed the case was “stale”, by which he meant that any evidence could possibly not be usable in court. “But I hope it’s cracked,” he said of the case.
From acquittal to civil action – drama in court:
*March 16, 2005: Inge Lotz is bludgeoned to death in her Stellenbosch flat.
*June 15, 2005: Lotz’s boyfriend, Fred van der Vyver, pictured, is arrested for her murder.
*June 16, 2005: Van der Vyver makes his first appearance in the Stellenbosch Magistrate’s Court. He’s granted R10 000 bail.
*February 12, 2007: Van der Vyver’s trial starts in the Western Cape High Court.
*November 29, 2007: Van der Vyver is acquitted of murder.
*March 14, 2008: Lotz’s parents sue Van der Vyver for damages.
*May 14, 2008: Van der Vyver sues the Minister of Safety and Security for damages.
*May 21, 2009: Lotz’s parents drop the civil suit and the parties reach a settlement agreement not to sue one another or make any statements to the media.
*November 11, 2010: Van der Vyver’s civil suit against the minister starts in the Western Cape High Court.
*August 15, 2011: Van der Vyver wins the civil action.
*September 15, 2011: The high court refuses to grant the minister leave to appeal the decision in the civil action. The minister petitions the Supreme Court of Appeal.
*November 17, 2011: The Supreme Court of Appeal gives the minister the go-ahead to appeal the decision.
*March 16, 2012: Lotz’s parents post a R1million reward for info that leads to the prosecution of their daughter’s killer.
Byleveld’s successful cases:
*West End serial killer Jack Mogale who killed 16 people and was convicted of murder and rape in 2011. He committed the crimes inareas south of Joburg between March 2008 and March 2009.
*Seven-year-old Sheldean Human’s body was found in a stormwater drain in Pretoria 15 days after she vanished in February 2007. Her killer, Andrew Jordaan, 30, was arrested after confessing to Byleveld.
*Byleveld investigated the assassination of mining magnate Brett Kebble in 2005 and claimed he had proof that the self-confessed killers had put out a hit on him. Mikey Schultz and Nigel McGurk were given amnesty from prosecution after they turned state witness.
*Donovan Moodley, who kidnapped then murdered 21-year-old Leigh Matthews.
*Serial killer Cedric Maake who shot 23 people and raped 15 women. He was known as the Wemmer Pan Killer because it was in that area of Joburg that he targeted most of his victims