THE POLICE are revisiting the Leigh Matthews murder case amid allegations that convicted murderer Donovan Moodley’s best friend was at the scene of the ransom exchange – on the night she was murdered in 2004.
The friend was traced via his cellphone records by legendary detective Piet Byleveld, who names him in his biography: Byleveld: Dossier of a Serial Sleuth, written by Rapport journalist Hanlie Retief.
The Saturday Star has chosen not to name the man at this stage.
Yesterday one of Gauteng’s most senior advocates, Zaais van Zyl, the prosecutor in the Moodley murder case, revealed that a new investigating officer had been appointed.
Van Zyl, who prosecuted drunk driving judge Nkola Motala, said yesterday: “I met with her (the new detective) this week and we’ll meet again next week to discuss the case.
“If we gather enough evidence to prosecute, we’ll do it,” he added.
Matthews’s kidnapping and murder transfixed the country in 2004. Her devastated family waited in vain for her safe return for 12 days after her father Rob paid R50 000 in ransom.
Her body was eventually found dumped on a field in Walkerville, in southern Gauteng. Moodley was convicted of the kidnapping and murder, and sentenced to life in jail. He has launched several abortive bids to have his conviction overturned.
In the book, inferring that Moodley’s best friend may have been involved, Byleveld says he traced the man’s cellphone to the bridge at the R558 turn-off at the Grassmere Toll Plaza at the same time that Matthews’s father had dropped the cash ransom, also at the plaza, just after 8pm that Friday night.
“I can prove from cellphone records that he was on or near the bridge during the ransom handover.
“What was he doing there, at that precise moment?” Byleveld asked.
Byleveld, who retired from the South African police service last year, has said he intends carrying out his promise to ensure that everyone involved in the murder of the 21-year-old blonde Bond University student was brought to book.
Yesterday, the man refused to answer questions and slammed down the phone when the Saturday Star put Byleveld’s claims to him.
“I don’t want to discuss this with anyone. I don’t want to talk to the media,” he said.
Expanding on his theory in the book, Byleveld said: “Moodley’s cellphone records showed he was in cellphone contact with a few of his friends during Leigh’s kidnapping. One was his close friend.”
During an interview three days after Moodley’s arrest on October 4, 2004, the man, then 25, said both he and Moodley carried guns to protect themselves.
Moodley later confessed to killing Matthews with his 9mm Taurus pistol.
Also at that time, the man said he was shocked at Moodley’s arrest and prayed every night that it would not be true that he had killed Matthews.
“I’m ashamed of what he’s done. It would be hard for me to stay his friend. I’m battling to deal with the shock. I get goosebumps when I see his face in the news,” the man said.
He showed pictures of him and Moodley next to one another on a rollercoaster ride at Gold Reef City, saying they also went on fishing trips, motorbike riding excursions, and played ten-pin bowling or watched movies together.
He said he identified with the Matthews family because his own brother had been killed during an armed robbery, and it would therefore be hard to “forgive” Moodley.
Asked to comment yesterday, Ketan Naidoo, who was one of Moodley’s close circle of friends who played provincial league pool together at the time, said the allegations against the man were very serious.
He asked: “If it’s true, why didn’t they convict him as well?”
The man still plays professional pool and took part in the 2011 National Blackball Federation as a member of Lens Boys’ Senior team.
In Byleveld’s book, the detective said he believed Moodley had five accomplices, and suggested Moodley and his friends had made a living out of kidnapping people for ransom.
Byleveld said an amount of R92 000 had been deposited into Moodley’s account six months before he and his accomplices kidnapped and killed Matthews.
The R92 000 was deposited in January 2004, six months before he murdered Matthews and shortly after Moodley enrolled as a student at Bond University, where he was one of Matthews’s classmates.
“It’s a hell of a lot of money for a jobless student,” Byleveld wrote.
“I’m 100 percent convinced it wasn’t the first time Moodley kidnapped someone for ransom.”
Byleveld suggested that Moodley’s other targets had survived the kidnappings and never reported the cases to the police because of their families’ status in society.
“The money was handed over and the children were safely returned. End of the story,” he wrote.