Durban - Detectives probing the enduring mystery of notorious paedophile Gert van Rooyen's missing victims are honing their search on the Durban area in the hope of cracking open the 30-year-old cold case and bring closure to the families.
While much of the investigation over the past three decades has concentrated in Pretoria and Johannesburg - where Van Rooyen and his lover and accomplice, Joey Haarhoff spent most of their time - detectives now believe that Durban could hold the key to solving the mystery.
Don Chandler, a retired Natal Midlands murder and robbery unit detective who was assigned to investigate the 1989 kidnapping of 12-year-old Fiona Harvey of Pietermaritzburg - one of Van Rooyen's KZN victims - believes that the paedophile may have brought all or most of his victims to Durban.
Chandler who is assisting the Hawks in their investigation on behalf of all the families said that he had been able to trace Van Rooyen to two Durban companies for which he worked for in the late '80s.
He also believes that Van Rooyen and Haarhof may have rented a flat at 101 Victoria Embankment.
He says that Van Rooyen worked as a sub-contractor for a Pinetown based company called Dalclamp industries for four months between August and December 1989. Chandler believes Van Rooyen's employers or the people he was in touch with during this time may hold vital clues in solving the case.
Van Rooyen along with Haarhof whom he used to approach the girls are alleged to have kidnapped and killed at least six young girls between 1988 and 1989.
Tracy-Lee Scott-Crossley, 14, disappeared on her way to Cresta shopping mall in Randburg in 1988. Two months later Fiona Harvey, 12, of Pietermaritzburg, disappeared. On June 7, 1989, Joan Horn, 12, of Pretoria, disappeared. A 16-year-old Durban girl, Janet Delport, escaped the couple's clutches after she was abducted in a mall in July 1989. On September 22, 1989, Kempton Park girls, Odette Boucher, 11, and, Anna-Mari Wapenaar, 12, went missing.
The saga, which held South Africa captive as fear gripped the nation, came to an end in January 1990 when their final victim, 16-year-old Joan Booysen escaped from the couple's home in Capital Park and alert the police.
When Van Rooyen discovered Booysen had escaped and the police were closing in him, he shot and killed Haarhoff and then killed himself.
Since then the search has focused on finding where Van Rooyen dumped the bodies of his victims.
In June 2017, SAPS forensic investigators excavated a number of sites around Blythedale Beach, north of Durban, as it was suspected that the victims were buried there.
Van Rooyen was known to have spent his final holiday close by.
Now, previously unseen photographs of Haarhoff outside Durban's iconic 101 Victoria Embankment block of flats and Van Rooyen's old company access card for Dalclamp in Pinetown point to the couple spending much of their time in Durban, Chandler said.
"What is interesting that towards the latter part of 1989, Gert worked for Dalclamp, part of his job was to transport fire door frames from a company in Pretoria and transport them to Durban from where they would sometimes be put on a shipping container and sent to Mauritius," he said.
Chandler believes that people who worked for Dalclamp during this period could provide crucial eye witness testimony on how Van Rooyen operated.
Chandler also believes that while the focus has been over the widely publicised six missing children, there are other victims - black and Indian children - who may also have fallen prey to Van Rooyen and Haarhof.
"There is strong testimony out there that Gert may have kidnapped other children. Back then it was Apartheid and when black and Indian children went missing it was not given as much attention as when white children went missing. That is why focusing the investigation in Durban and the companies he worked for there are important. The fact that he had access to shipping containers could even point an element of trafficking," he said.
National police spokesman, Brigadier Vishnu Naidoo said that over the last three decades this matter has taken investigators to and fro between Gauteng and KZN and Durban and surrounding areas in particular.
"Many people, claiming to have had legitimate information, have come forward but such information had proven to be negative. Unfortunately, almost always, information, like now, made its way to the media and this gave the families and the nation false hope. Therefore, it will be appreciated if the media can please allow for police to respond to this from an investigation point of view as opposed to continuously investigating this matter in the media," he said.
Anyone with information on Van Rooyen's movements in Durban is urged to contact Chandler at: [email protected] or on call 061 487 2570.