An ex-wife fearing for her life. A series of Photoshopped pictures found in a family safe. A stash of guns. A group of hardened friends turning on each other.
The 13-year-old murder of Cranks waitress Betty Khethani has become even more complex as the mystery witness, who stalled the bail application for three of the six accused, has now been revealed.
The ex-wife of Carrington Laughton, the man police believe wrote the letter that led them to discover the murder, has stated in a court affidavit that her life could be in danger if he were released.
Jane Laughton has also given vital evidence to the police after discovering an odd series of photographs that depict one of the group’s other alleged kidnappings, featuring Ruth Mncube.
A letter found at a home in Kenilworth, Joburg, linked the six men and several others to a spree of violent abductions and Khethani’s murder.
According to the letters, in May 1999, the 37-year-old waitress was kidnapped, shot in the head and her body was dumped in Walkerville.
She survived and was taken to a Vereeniging hospital.
The letters said the group of men then forged medical documents to kidnap her again from the hospital, brazenly pushing her out in a wheelchair.
Her body was then entombed in concrete at the same home the confessions were discovered in, but was later moved to a dumping site in Booysens.
Several of the men involved allegedly terrorised other employees at the restaurant where Khethani worked, allegedly abducting and beating anyone they thought might have information on her murder.
In 1999, when her husband first asked that the photographs be stored, he said they were a “life insurance policy” that would protect him.
During a bail application on Thursday for Laughton, David and Carel Ranger, it was revealed at the Johannesburg Magistrate’s Court that the images were of Cranks waitress Mncube.
However, some of the images had been Photoshopped to make it appear as though Mncube had been badly injured, possibly killed.
His wife also submitted a protection order she had filed against him several years back.
Carrington’s other co-accused, Paul Toft-Nielsen, also submitted an affidavit, detailing how he had threatened him.
His affidavit said Carrington had told him there would be trouble for him if he helped police find evidence to convict the group.
Toft-Nielsen gave an account of how Laughton had a stockpile of six guns at his home, four of which police had confiscated.
“(I’ve) seen what he is capable of,” Toft-Nielsen’s affidavit read.
Laughton’s advocate, Johannes van Eck, argued that his client had been in contact with his wife for years since their divorce, had known Toft-Nielsen for three decades, and that their fears were “vague stories that (don’t) exist”.
The Ranger brothers have claimed they were not involved in Khethani’s murder, but have admitted they had transported her from the hospital.
Their lawyer, Jaco van Heerden, said the men had not been connected to the murder through their co-accused’s statements.
But prosecutor Namika Kowlas warned the court that some of the men had a history of intimidation, and could interfere with the State’s case if granted bail.
The Ranger brothers, former police officers, and Laughton have an investigative background, which meant they might destroy evidence not already known to police.
Fellow accused, Toft-Nielsen and Dirk Reyneke, were granted bail earlier this month. Another accused, Conway Brown, chose to confess his role in the murder and not to apply for bail. - The Star