Johannesburg - Ralph Haynes is alive and dead. He’s in South Africa and out of the country. He’s a cut-throat con-artist and the nicest guy you’ll ever meet.
Depending on who you ask, you’ll get a different version of the man who has been controversially labelled the “Godfather of the West Rand”. But one thing is certain: there are a lot of people who want to find him.
His wife, Jacky, has spent the past seven years dealing with a police investigation that went nowhere, being placed under investigation herself and fearing she will never know what happened to her husband.
“I’ve never had the chance to grieve. I’ve been so involved in all of this nonsense going on around me that I’ve never dealt with what happened.”
The last time Haynes was seen was on January 21, 2011, climbing into a helicopter belonging to Middelburg businessman, Frikkie Lutskie.
Among those who witnessed this was Dawie Lotter, Haynes’ long-time friend and associate, and Jacky’s new partner.
Haynes had allegedly been contacted by Lutskie in the days leading up to his disappearance, the businessman asking Haynes for help assessing the value of some gold which he had acquired.
He had agreed to meet with Lutskie at the Kitty Hawk aerodrome on the outskirts of Pretoria that Friday, taking Lotter with him.
Lotter remembers the day - down to the smallest detail. He remembers buying two Energades at the airstrip’s cafeteria shortly before Lutskie landed his helicopter, how he had been told to hold Haynes’ drink while he went to speak privately with Lutskie.
“He liked to do business by himself. I thought they would do their one-on-one talking by themselves,” he remembers.
Haynes boarded the chopper, with Lutskie helping him to fix his seatbelt, and then the pair flew off. “Not a word to me. I’m standing with the two cold drinks there on the veranda.”
Lotter says this wasn’t totally uncommon, he wouldn’t often be privy to his friend’s meetings.
But he decided to wait, until he received a call at around 1.30pm from Haynes saying that he wouldn’t need transport back, as “everything had been sorted”.
That was the last time he would hear from Haynes, who he claims was unreachable after that phone call.
Jacky and her husband had plans that night, and when she was unable to reach him, she called Lotter to find out where he was.
A series of phone calls to all involved failed to locate him, though Jacky claims she contacted one of Haynes’ contacts, controversial businessman Zunaid Moti, who successfully traced his phone to a veld in Middelburg.
After reporting him missing to the police - including the officer investigating Haynes’ allegedly dodgy business dealings, Luke Enslin - Lotter and his crew went to check the veld in Middelburg. They found nothing, apart from some clothes that ultimately did not belong to Haynes.
When confronted, Lutskie had told investigators that upon landing his helicopter, he had given Haynes a bakkie to drive home, and that was the last he had seen of him.
Lotter is convinced that it would have been difficult for Haynes to drive such a vehicle, as he usually used automatic cars following the loss of his leg in a motorcycle accident.
“You wouldn’t catch him driving a Bantam bakkie,” says Lotter.
The bakkie was later found abandoned with broken windows near Bronkhorstspruit, but its understood there was no evidence that Haynes had been inside the vehicle.
Haynes’ disappearance entered the media spotlight, and his connection to Lutskie was widely reported. A 2013 piece in the Daily Maverick reported that in the build up to Haynes’ disappearance, Lutskie was set to pay him R400 000 to look into a suspected attempt on his life.
The assassination attempt allegedly involved three men firing 27 bullets at Lutskie while he was driving his bakkie, though he managed to escape serious harm.
Lutskie’s helicopter crashing near the Botswana border in May 2012 also made headlines, after he allegedly failed to report the crash and simply camouflaged the wreckage in the mud.
When approached by the Saturday Star this week for comment, Lutskie declined to talk about the day Haynes went missing or the helicopter crash.
He did say, however, that he had made a statement to the police, that they had done a thorough investigation and that investigators were aware of others who had been contacted by Haynes in the days following his disappearance.
Enslin, who has since retired from the SAPS but is still investigating Haynes’ disappearance alongside private investigator Mike Bolhuis, is convinced Haynes is alive.
“Ralph disappeared because of me, he knew I was behind the investigation and I was getting close,” he says.
Enslin had a long history investigating Haynes, and arrested him in 2010 for an incident involving a stolen car.
Haynes had allegedly been the middleman in purchasing the car for Moti, but the original owner had reported it stolen.
Jacky Haynes was convinced however, that the arrest was spurious, as the car had been bought, her husband had the papers, and that the case would have been thrown out of court if Haynes had not disappeared.
But Enslin says this wasn’t the only investigation running against Haynes at the time, and that the businessman had been involved in a series of fraud and racketeering incidents.
Enslin is convinced that Haynes’ political and business connections allowed him to go underground, and that he is likely still hiding out somewhere in South Africa. The investigator is convinced that if Haynes was in another country, he would have already been found and extradited to South Africa.
But even his fellow investigator is unconvinced by the suggestion that Haynes is alive. Bolhuis has made numerous statements over the past seven years suggesting “those closest to him” were responsible for the suspected murder.
Lotter acknowledges that some of Haynes’ dealings would make him seem like a con-man.
He admits that Haynes had been friendly with members of a gang allegedly involved in the murder of Wits Academic David Webster in 1989, but he was certainly not a part of the gang.
“Ralph is a family man, a good guy. At some point, he would have made contact (with Jacky or his children) I know in my heart of hearts that he is not alive.”
Jacky is also unconvinced that Haynes fled the country, believing he may have gotten in over his head with contacts overseas.
The months preceding Haynes’ disappearance were a major trial for her, as Haynes became increasingly paranoid, and his behaviour erratic.
“I think something went wrong. I don’t know what, but he was scared.”
The intervening years have been hellish. During the police investigation where she felt vilified, she struggled with her mental health and battled suicidal thoughts.
While it may seem the case has stalled, sources close to the case have confirmed that the investigation has been revived by the SAPS provincial organised crime unit.
While Jacky is aware of a new investigating officer on the matter, she does not have much faith that she’ll ever know exactly what happened to her husband. Anyone with information is asked to contact IRS Forensic Investigations on 086 191 1477 with full anonymity guaranteed.
We need to find out why ralph disappeared
IRS Forensic Investigations has taken a keen interest in the Ralph Haynes case and has the consent of Jacqueline Haynes to review the case and evidence.
“This is a very important case that needs closure for two reasons,” said IRS director Chad Thomas.
“First and foremost, Ralph’s family need closure. Secondly, we need to find out why Ralph disappeared and whether his disappearance was linked to organised crime and whether he may have been killed so as to silence him. Ralph was connected to a multitude of controversial people, from multimillionaire businessmen, to apartheid-era hit men, to well-known entertainers and sportsmen and, of course, to serious organised crime figures.
“His disappearance has left a lot of unanswered questions about several high-profile cases involving high-profile individuals that were being investigated at the time of his disappearance,” said Thomas.
“Other well-known investigators and retired police officers have worked on this case, but they have also experienced the frustration of no one wanting to talk on record. The fact is several suspects have been identified, along with a variety of motives. This case needs to be looked at from a fresh perspective by the state law-enforcement agencies in conjunction with independent investigators. If the disappearance of Ralph can be solved, the book can be closed on a lot of other cases that are intertwined in this whole sordid saga,” said Thomas.
The Saturday Star