Author and former police officer Mark Minnie. Picture: Supplied

Cape Town - Just weeks after the publication of the explosive book, The Lost Boys of Bird Island, co-author Mark Minnie was found dead on Tuesday on a farm outside Port Elizabeth with a gunshot wound to his head.

Together with Chris Steyn, a one-time investigative journalist at Independent Newspapers, the pair wrote about a paedophile ring that both were investigating from different angles and in different ways during the apartheid regime in 1987. Despite many obstacles put in his way, the courageous cop, who worked in the Narcotics Bureau in Port Elizabeth (referred to by Minnie as "the windy city with a filthy underbelly") persisted with his probe into the horrific and shocking activities of the men involved. 

The ring included Nationalist Party ministers John Wiley and defence minister Magnus Malan as well as police reservist and businessman Dave Allen. A third minister not named, and still alive, is identified by a witness Minnie interviews. Malan passed away in 2011. The ring would regularly fly young boys to an abandoned island with a lighthouse, off the coast of Port Elizabeth.

Minnie died in much the same way that Wiley and Allen died - with a gunshot wound to his head - in what is being referred to as an apparent suicide. Marianne Thamm, a well-known journalist and writer who penned the foreword to the book tweeted this morning: "Devastated by the news that Mark Minnie co-author of Lost Boys of Bird Island has been found dead in the Eastern Cape from an apparent suicide...something is amiss."

Devastated by the news that Mark Minnie co-author of Lost Boys of Bird Island has been found dead in the Eastern Cape from an apparent suicide....something is amiss

Police spokeswoman Colonel Priscilla Naidu said on Tuesday that at this stage no foul play was suspected.

"He was found last night with a gunshot wound to his head. A pistol was found lying next to him. We have opened an inquest docket," said Naidu.

When Wiley and Allen died, Minnie was well into his investigation - Allen was supposed to appear in court after Minnie visited him at his home, and evidence had already been uncovered about Wiley. All through the investigation, as Minnie details in the book, cover-ups and the removal of evidence were undertaken in a failed attempt to block the revelations surfacing.

It all started innocuously enough - when his superior officer gave him a piece of paper with a telephone number and asked to investigate a complaint. What he uncovered was so disturbing that one cannot remain dispassionate in the face of such callous cruelty.

Minnie had reason enough to persevere with his case and not just in the face of seeing justice done. He himself was raped when he was a boy of 12. His superior asks him why he is almost obsessed with going after one of the most powerful men in the country, referring to it as a "bloody suicide mission". Minnie writes, "My answer knocked him stone cold."  He tells his superior: "Two bastards had their way with me. The case never went to court. I know what those youngsters are going through."

Prior to this, the senior prosecutor tells him to shut down the case. His docket is removed from his desk. He is shunted off to Soweto to join the riot police and one night, when he is switched from patrolling in a protected armoured Casspir to a more vulnerable Land Rover, a shot is deliberately fired at him through the windscreen. The bullet hits his colleague who the would-be assassins thought was Minnie, who changed places to drive. On the same night his girlfriend Bernie also has an attempt on her life, as her car goes up in smoke.

Minnie is eventually forced to resign after intensively probing the ring and getting close to the bottom of this seething can of worms. His and Steyn's paths cross in 1987. He backs off when he feels he will be put in a dangerously lethal position. But 30 years later when they manage to connect the dots to expose this awful story, the pair meet up and the book is published. 

In the final chapter, Minnie writes: "All I ever wanted to be was a cop., But I was denied this because of the Allen/Wiley investigation and where it took my life... To the Lost Boys: I am sorry. I am sorry you were failed by society and the system. We can never be forgiven. Nor can we allow these adults, these men who abuse children, to carry on living without fear of being found out, caught and convicted. We must never give up."

* The Lost Boys of Bird Island by Mark Minnie and Chris Steyn is published by Tafelberg publishers.

* Receive IOL's top stories via Whatsapp by sending your name to 0745573535.