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Durban - When South African police went looking for the woman who is now the world’s most wanted, they knocked on the door of a house in Sherwood, Durban.
Dubbed the “White Widow” after her suicide bomber husband, Germaine Lindsay, and three others killed 52 people in London’s 2005 terrorist attacks, Samantha Lewthwaite is implicated in the September 21 mall attack in Nairobi.
She had fraudulently obtained a South African passport using the name Natalie Faye Webb – and a Harris Crescent, Sherwood, residential address.
Jane Lovejoy, who has lived at that address for 38 years with her husband, has been visited twice by police over the past two years.
A year ago, two police officers from Pretoria visited her home and showed her husband a picture of British Muslim-convert Lewthwaite, and asked if he knew the woman or had seen her. When he answered in the negative, they left.
However, in July this year, two different officers, believed to be from the Hawks in Pretoria, arrived at Lovejoy’s doorstep asking the same question.
Suspicious of their visit – there had been incidents in the area where residents were harmed by criminals posing as police officers – she contacted her friend and vice-chairman of the local community police forum, Satish Dhupelia.
“There have been a few incidents in the surrounding area involving people in police vehicles and uniforms so I could understand Jane’s nervousness,” Dhupelia said
“I asked if the officers had a search warrant and she said no. So I advised her to instead arrange a meeting with the officers at the Sydenham police station and I said I would go with her.”
Lovejoy, who did not want to be interviewed by the Daily News, agreed to meet at the police station the following day.
“Later that evening, her husband remembered the visit by two different police officers a year ago when she was not home. She then googled Webb’s name and found a South African passport document with Webb’s name on it and Jane’s residential address,” said Dhupelia.
The document looked to be about two years old, he said.
Dhupelia said when he and Lovejoy went to the Sydenham police station they met two Hawks officers and told them of their internet search.
“They merely said that we seemed to have done our homework. They were tight-lipped about their investigation and simply made small talk with us,” he said.
“They confirmed they were looking for Lewthwaite. Jane said she had lived in Harris Crescent for 38 years and had never seen Lewthwaite before.
The police asked her for a statement, which she prepared on her own, but was rewritten by the officers because it didn’t comply with their police format. We proofread the statement which stated that she did not know Lewthwaite and that she didn’t have any information about her.”
Dhupelia said at the time he asked the officers to circulate the suspect’s photograph in the media so that people could come forward with information, but they declined.
Lovejoy appeared on M-Net’s Carte Blanche programme on Sunday night in a segment that showed how, for the right price, it was possible to find people connected to the Department of Home Affairs who were willing to falsify identity documents.
“They have no care for how this process could be abused by people with deadly intent – like terrorists,” presenter, Derek Watts, said on the programme.
He said that after their initial September 29 programme, they were contacted by Lovejoy on Twitter.
Lovejoy told them that Lewthwaite had used her home address when applying for a passport in Durban as Natalie Faye Webb. Lewthwaite, 29, was in South Africa between 2008 and 2012.
Somalian Islamist militant group, al-Shabaab, claimed responsibility for the attack for which Lewthwaite was believed to have planned.
“Corruption is increasingly becoming a problem and for me it is the greatest threat of terrorism that South Africa faces. It is corruption,” Martin Ewi, of the Institute for Security Studies, said on Carte Blanche.
Lovejoy told Carte Blanche: “They wanted to come on to my property and interview me, and get a statement from me,” she had said. “Finally established (that) they wanted to know if I knew of a Natalie Faye Webb and that she had given our street address as her own residence.”
Department of State Security spokesman, Brian Dube, said that due to the nature of the investigation he was unable to comment.