Sizzlers massacre remains a mystery
By Clayton Barnes
On Sunday it will be five years since Cape Town's "worst massacre" in which nine men were butchered at Sizzlers, a Sea Point gay massage parlour.
More questions than answers still remain as to what actually happened on the morning of January 20, 2003.
During the trial of two men found guilty of the murders, the entire country had ex-pected to hear why the nine were executed gangland-style but, because the two killers remained silent, the questions are still unanswered.
Many claimed the Sizzlers massacre was more than just a robbery gone wrong, but there is not enough evidence to bear this out.
Sizzlers owner Aubrey Otgaar, masseurs Sergio de Castro, Marius Meyer, Travis Reade, Timothy Boyd, Stephanus Fouche, Johan Meyer and Robert Visser, and client Gregory Berghaus, were all killed in the attack. All had been tied up, shot in the head, and had their throats slit.
Quinton Taylor survived, despite a bullet in his head.
Sizzlers neighbour and president of the Gay and Lesbian Alliance at the time, Juan-Duval Uys, says he believed an industry competitor had orchestrated the hit.
He told Weekend Argus he was absolutely convinced the man behind the massacre was free and operating a gay massage parlour "somewhere in the northern suburbs".
"I received death threats from this man two weeks before the Sizzlers massacre," said Uys. "He thought I owned Sizzlers and he said I should watch out because he was going to find me and kill me.
"I was very afraid and took the threat seriously."
Uys said he hadn't received any other threats but was contacted by Robert Visser, one of the men killed in the attack, two days before the massacre.
"He called me and asked whether he could meet me urgently to discuss something," he said.
"I then told him we could meet on the night of January 19, but later postponed the meeting to 2am on the 20th.
"He called me again about two hours before the murder and pleaded for me to see him at midnight. I couldn't see him then and we stuck to the 2am meeting.
"However, the time arrived and I phoned to the Sizzlers landline for him to meet me. Someone answered but the person didn't say anything. I then called Visser's cellphone and it just rang, and the following morning I heard that all of them were killed."
Uys said he was still haunted by Visser's voice asking him for a meeting that morning.
"Just thinking of it brings back all the emotion I felt when I first heard about the massacre," he said. "I even helped identify the bodies. I showed police who Aubrey 'Eric' Otgaar, the parlour's owner, was. I remember he was still wearing a Hawaiian shirt and shorts at the morgue."
The two killers, waiter Adam Roy Woest and taxi operator Trevor Basil Theys, were found guilty in the Cape High Court on nine counts of premeditated murder, one of attempted murder, and one of armed robbery, just over a year after the incident.
At the time of sentencing, Judge Nathan Erasmus de-scribed the slayings as the "worst massacre that Cape Town and the country have ever seen".
Erasmus agreed with prosecutor Anthony Stephen that the robbery at Sizzlers had been premeditated, and the massacre was preconceived.
He said when Woest and Theys entered the Sizzlers gay parlour in Sea Point in the early hours of January 20, they had evil and criminal intent, and had no intention at all of innocently utilising the services of the parlour.
Although Woest and Theys had taken balaclavas to the scene, they had not used them inside the premises.
The judge presumed this was because they knew there would be no survivors.
But the reason for the killings remained a mystery, said Erasmus.
Uys said Woest, who lived next door to him at the Bordeaux complex opposite Sizzlers, was a quiet man who lived there with his girlfriend.
"He never spoke to me before the massacre," he said.
"Afterwards he would ask me about developments and what police were telling me on a daily basis. I never thought he was involved somehow, but he must have given the man who was threatening me information about me.
"I'm confident and firmly believe that man, who called me from a northern suburbs telephone number, hired Woest and Theys to carry out the hit.
"It's very sad that they have to sit and rot in jail while he can enjoy his freedom."
Taylor, who miraculously survived the brutal attack, said the killings had brought him closer to God.
During an interview in 2005 Taylor, who was "born again" shortly after the incident, said he thanked God for answering the last desperate prayer he uttered before being shot in the head.
"I remembered a prayer from childhood and I just repeated 'If I die before I wake, I pray the Lord my soul to take' and I think that prayer saved me," he said.
During a Weekend Argus visit to the house in Graham Street this week, none of the neighbours and residents were willing to speak about what happened five years ago.
The white house with the picket fence, apparently sold by its owner shortly after the incident, is occupied, but no one was home when we called.
A man standing at his gate a few houses away, who refused to give his name, said no one spoke about the incident any more.
"I think a lot of people either moved on or moved out of the area... It's quiet here now, and there haven't been any further incidents."