Carrington Laugh-ton has been around the block more than just a few times.
He is the founder of a website called NakedMotoring. co.za, the chairman of the SA Naturist Federation (Sanfed), he organises events for the 61 Mechanised Battalion Group of the SA National Defence Force, he allegedly conned an Australian man out of R3 000 for a snorkel for his short-wheel-based Land Rover Defender and he has a previous conviction for perjury.
Lately, however, the Joburg man is better known for being the person police allege wrote a letter of confession which led them to discover the murder 13 years ago of waitress Betty Khethani.
In April, Laughton was in his element. He gave a colourful interview to an international news agency on how nudism is thriving in SA.
“(Sanfed) is growing briskly, from 130 people in 2009 to around 8 000 today, and attitudes are relaxed enough for a new all-naked business to draw bookings,” Laughton said.
And nudity, is what he loves talking about – nudity and cars.
A month later, however, he was behind bars.
Although Laughton is in the biggest trouble he has ever been in, he has made the newspaper headlines before.
In 2008 Rodger Pryce complained of Laughton to an adventure online forum.
“If you want to pay money and never get your snorkel, then go right ahead. Carrington Laughton who is Unisnorkel, took my money, all the way from Australia. He is a conman and a cheat.”
It also seems Naked Motoring is not very credible among journalists. On the website Paul Toft-Nielsen is the “heaviest journalist. I dare you lick Chicken’s fingers”.
Dirk Reinecke is the “Oldest journalist. I am the chicken, dare to lick my fingers”.
The group posts videos, pictures and reviews of new vehicles. They call themselves the “freshest face in motoring journalism”.
“Our unique approach to motoring and journalism will have you screaming with laughter… Our team of fun junkies will keep you entertained,” the website reads.
Last month the owners of a house in Kenilworth in Joburg were renovating.
They found a bundle of letters. One of them was a confession linking certain men to a spree of violent abductions and a grisly murder. One of them was Laughton.
Paul Toft-Nielsen and Dirk Reinecke are motoring journalists at Naked Motoring, and Conway Brown is a friend of Laughton’s on Facebook.
Carel and David Ranger were serving as policemen.
The letter, linked them and Monique Lamkis, whose father Eric owns the Thai fusion restaurant Cranks, to a spree of abductions and Khethani’s murder.
In May 1999, Khethani, 37, who was having a pay dispute with her employer, was kidnapped and shot in the head.
The killers dumped her bleeding body in Walkerville. But they didn’t know she’d survived and was at a Vereeniging hospital.
When they realised, they hatched a bold plan, forging documents to kidnap Khethani again. They pushed her out of the hospital in a wheelchair, pretending to transfer her to another hospital. She died either from the shock of the second kidnapping, or from being suffocated after tape had been placed over her mouth and nose. The men were arrested last month.
Laughton has denied writing the confession letter. Toft-Nielsen submitted an affidavit detailing how Laughton had threatened him. The Ranger brothers claimed they were not involved, but have admitted to transporting Khethani from hospital. Brown withdrew his bail application, after submitting a written confession.
During bail proceedings in the case of the men at the Johannesburg Magistrate’s Court, Laughton’s ex-wife, Jane Laughton, emerged as a secret witness.
She said she discovered photographs of the group’s other alleged kidnappings, featuring Ruth Mncube.
The photographs, found in an envelope labelled “Ruth”, had been in Jane’s family safe for 13 years.
When Laughton first asked that the letters be stored in 1999, he said they were a “life insurance policy” that would protect him.