A twist in the ‘baby broker’ case
Durban - An alleged baby broker who was expected to appear in the Durban Regional Court on Thursday on charges of facilitating illegal adoptions, faces new fraud allegations involving the sale of non-existent wildlife.
Hester Elizabeth van Schalkwyk’s latest brush with the law was highlighted on Sunday by M-Net’s Carte Blanche - the same show that in 2011 exposed her alleged running of Survivors Sanctuary, an illegal children’s shelter in Durban.
Ed Hern, the owner of the Rhino and Lion Reserve near Johannesburg, told Carte Blanche that he was approached by a woman, Elichia Driescher (believed to be Van Schalkwyk’s alias) who represented herself as the chief executive officer of a company. He said she referred to herself as a “wild animal whisperer” and offered to sell him a baby rhino for R80 000.
Hern said he paid Van Schalkwyk R20 000 as a deposit, but was still waiting for the rhino a month later.
She first told him that the rhino was being transported from Limpopo, but the excuses did not stop there, Carte Blanche reported.
Hern hired a private investigator, Sarel Snyman, who said on the programme that he immediately recognised the alias used from the 2011 exposé.
Snyman showed Carte Blanche pictures which Van Schalkwyk had forwarded of a boy wrapped in bandages, lying in a hospital bed, whom she alleged was her grandson. He said Van Schalkwyk had made excuses that her “grandson” was diagnosed with cancer and that she had just been widowed.
The programme reported that a case had been opened two months ago at the Durban North SAPS, but was transferred to Gauteng because the docket was in Afrikaans.
Police spokesman, Colonel Vincent Mdunge, said the docket was transferred to Gauteng because KwaZulu-Natal had no jurisdiction on the matter.
“It is immaterial if the docket is in English or Afrikaans. The docket was administratively processed in Durban North. If someone comes to Durban North to register a case docket, Durban North will not chase you. They will open the case and take statements and post the docket to the mother station where it will be captured and registered,” Mdunge said. “This was never a Durban case.”
Gauteng police spokesman, Lieutenant-Colonel Lungelo Dlamini, confirmed on Wednesday that a case of theft under false pretences was being investigated.
A few weeks after Van Schalkwyk was approached by Carte Blanche, she transferred the R20 000 back into Hern’s bank account. But Hern is not satisfied.
“It doesn’t matter that she returned the money. I want her to pay for what she did to me,” he told the Daily News. “The fact that she paid me should be argued as a mitigating factor in court. She must go to jail for ever and ever.”
Hern said two people had contacted him with similar allegations against Van Schalkwyk after Sunday’s programme.
Dlamini said he was unaware of additional charges being laid against Van Schalkwyk. He said the docket would be sent to the senior public prosecutor for a decision on whether to prosecute now that the money had been returned to Hern.
Van Schalkwyk confirmed this week that she was contacted by Carte Blanche regarding a transaction between Hern and herself.
“They called me but I don’t know what it’s about,” she said. “He was reimbursed quite a while ago and I am not aware of any charges in Krugersdorp.”
When asked if she would like to respond to the claims aired on the show, she referred this to her lawyer.
Van Schalkwyk’s numerous postponements in her trial were also highlighted.
At her last court appearance on March 19, when her two-week illegal adoption trial was expected to get under way, Van Schalkwyk handed in doctors’ certificates claiming she had undergone a knee operation, needed treatment for a heart condition as well as a blood transfusion. She also told the court that she was not happy with her lawyer and wanted to hire a new one.
Durban Regional Court magistrate, Trevor Levitt, said he was reluctant to grant the adjournment, but did not want a technicality to affect the administration of justice in the event of an appeal.