THE FOLLOWING SERIES OF STORIES WERE PUBLISHED IN THE DAILY DISPATCH FROM 2010 TO 2018
New doubt over DJ’s guilt
By ANDREW STONE
EXPLOSIVE new evidence could cast doubt over the guilt of Heinrich van Rooyen, the Knysna DJ serving two life sentences for killing two young women in 2005, in at least one of the murders.
And it could back the claim of Gonubie-based private investigator Christian Botha, who has maintained all along that Van Rooyen is innocent.
The DJ was sentenced in May 2008 for the murders of Jessica Wheeler, 18, and Victoria Stadler, 20, in October and November 2005 – killings that rocked the seaside resort and sparked media frenzy over speculation that a serial killer could be on the loose.
Now the Dispatch has established that a prisoner who served time in a detention centre in Mossel Bay could shed new light on the murder of Stadler, whose decomposed body was discovered in the Noetzie Forest near her burnt-out vehicle on November 15, 2005. She had been reported missing five days earlier.
His statement – described by some sources as a “confession” – blames the murder on a criminal duo who have already been found guilty and are serving time for the murder of a man in the area at about the same time as the women’s murders. It bears chilling similarities to Stadler’s killing.
Peter McHelm, 48, was killed on the same day as Stadler – and their bodies were discovered only 900m apart.
Both Stadler and McHelm were strangled and their bodies were both hidden under bushes. They had also been robbed.
Two men, Aubrey Kemoetie and Byron Moses, were convicted of killing McHelm. Kemoetie had 12 previous convictions including serious assault, robbery and drug dealing. Moses had previously been convicted on six counts of theft.
The link between the killings was raised during Van Rooyen’s trial but he was convicted on the strength of DNA evidence. He had admitted to having sex with the two victims although he denied killing them.
However, the new statement by the prisoner, the Dispatch understands, makes detailed claims about the murder of Stadler which were never raised during the trial.
A warden at the Mossel Bay Correctional Centre, where the prisoner was serving time for an unrelated crime, confirmed that a man, whose name is known to the Dispatch, made an oral confession regarding details surrounding the murder of Stadler.
“He gave details on how she had been raped and killed and other information relating to that night,” said the warden. “He was then taken to a magistrate in George where he gave a sworn statement regarding his involvement.”
The warden said the prisoner had made the confession as he was overcome by feelings of “guilt and remorse” for his involvement.
Chief magistrate Les Strydom of the George Magistrate’s Court said the man had been taken to him.
“Yes, I will confirm that he was brought to me because he wanted to make a confession,” said Strydom.
“He has made a statement to me but I can’t divulge the details of it.”
A police spokesperson, Captain Malcolm Pojie, also confirmed that a statement had been made.
“But I have to categorically state that it is not a confession whatsoever,” he said.
“He does not implicate himself in the crimes as such.”
Pojie said the police were looking into the allegations made in the statement.
If the allegations are found to have substance they would back the claims of the Gonubie-based private investigator who was hired to investigate the murders of Wheeler and Stadler at the time.
Botha told the Dispatch that evidence he uncovered led him to believe that Van Rooyen was wrongfully convicted.
“Based on what I discovered during the course of my investigations I’m 100 percent convinced Heinrich is innocent of both murders and not just this one,” he said.
Van Rooyen’s father Isaac said the family was “extremely happy” with the latest developments.
“We always knew that our son is innocent,” he told the Dispatch yesterday.
“We hope the police will take this new information seriously and will now look into both cases.”
Isaac said he had informed his son, who is serving out his sentence at St Alban’s Prison in Port Elizabeth, of the new development.
“He was very pleased and just started crying when I told him the news over the telephone,” he said.
Van Rooyen has twice tried to have his convictions set aside but both appeals failed.
Efforts were made to contact Stadler’s mother, Hannetjie, over the new revelations. She could not be traced.
Background to the two girls’ murders
By ANDREW STONE
JUST under two months before the start of the 2005 December holiday season, 18-year old Jessica Wheeler was killed.
The body of the pretty brunette, who worked as as waitress in Knysna, was found in the yard of the St George’s Anglican Church on October 13.
She had been sodomised and her head was pushed into the ground with force, which resulted in her suffocating.
Soil was found in her eyes, lungs and stomach.
Nothing had been stolen from her and she was still wearing her rings, earrings and necklace. Her cellphone was found next to her.
Earlier that evening Wheeler was seen with friends at a local nightclub and had reportedly left to go home to her flat nearby just before 2am.
According to information gleaned by private investigator Christian Botha from her flatmate, she arrived home safely but left soon after when she received a call on her cellphone. That was the last time she was seen alive.
Just under a month later, on November 10, a second young woman, Victoria Stadler, 20, was reported missing. Her naked and decomposed body was discovered five days later near the burnt-out wreck of her VW Golf in the Noetzie Forest.
Stadler, another brunette who also worked as a waitress in the town, was known to frequent the same nightclubs as Wheeler.
A third person, 48-year old Peter McHelm, was also murdered on November 10, and his body was found some 900 metres from Stadler’s.
The pathologist’s report stated he had died from suffocation and had also possibly been strangled.
With just weeks to go before the start of one of the busiest periods of the year for Knysna, a popular destination with tourists, the town was in an uproar over the killings.
“The police were under a lot of pressure to make a breakthrough in the case,” said Botha, who recently released a book, Search for Truth, which details his investigations into the murders.
Botha was hired by a Knysna businessman to look into Wheeler’s murder the day after her body was discovered as the resident feared it would negatively impact on the town over the festive season.
Following the discoveries of Stadler’s and McHelm’s bodies, a media frenzy erupted over suggestions that a serial killer was on the loose. But soon after Stadler’s body was found, police arrested Knysna DJ Heinrich van Rooyen in connection with the girls’ killings.
Two men, Aubrey Kemoetie and Byron Moses, with a string of convictions behind them for serious assault, theft and drug dealing, were arrested for the murder of McHelm.
Van Rooyen’s subsequent bail hearings and trial dragged on for nearly three years before Judge Nathan Erasmus announced his verdict on May 2, 2008.
He found Van Rooyen guilty and sentenced him to two life terms for the murders of Wheeler and Stadler. He sentenced him to a further 20 years for sodomising Wheeler, five years for setting fire to Stadler’s car and three years for defeating the ends of justice.
Throughout the marathon trial Van Rooyen maintained his innocence. He admitted to having sex with the girls on the nights they were killed after forensic tests linked him to both victims through DNA evidence. Pollen spores were also taken from his clothing, which matched spores taken from the Stadler crime scene. Van Rooyen said he had had consensual sex in the car park outside the nightclub where he worked with Wheeler on the night she was killed.
He said Stadler offered him a lift home on the night she was murdered. He claimed they made out in the car before she dropped him off on the outskirts of Hornlee. He said they had masturbated one another, which explained why his semen was found on her pants.
He suggested the pollen spores could have come from bushes outside his home.
Botha said that while it was a remarkable coincidence that Van Rooyen had sex with both girls on the nights they were killed, it did not make him a murderer. “He was a known ladies’ man and used to have a lot of women throwing themselves at him,” he said.
Van Rooyen’s defence team also led evidence that Wheeler had in fact been killed by an acquaintance, and that Stadler had been killed by the same two men who were convicted of killing McHelm.
However, these arguments were dismissed by Judge Erasmus, and Van Rooyen was sentenced to life without the possibility of parole.
He is currently in St Alban’s Prison in Port Elizabeth after two unsuccessful attempts to have his convictions set aside.
As a last resort he appealed to the Constitutional Court where a full bench, led by Chief Justice Pius Langa, announced last year that it was not in the interests of justice to hear the matter as it lacked the prospect of success.
Van Rooyen’s father Isaac, who is in regular contact with his son, said he was doing “well” under the circumstances. “He’s a strong person and we have faith that he’ll get through all this,” he said.
Victim’s family doubt new evidence
But they would encourage an investigation
THE family of murdered Knysna waitress Victoria Stadler, who was brutally killed in 2005, have cast doubt over new developments which could prove that Heinrich van Rooyen is innocent of the crime.
The Dispatch reported yesterday that a prisoner who served time in a Mossel Bay detention centre made a statement to a George magistrate that could shed new light on the killing.
Speaking on behalf of the Stadler family, specialist investigator Mike Bolhuis said the family would encourage an investigation into the statement given by the prisoner, but they still believed the right man was sent to prison.
Bolhuis questioned the authenticity of the statement because it was known that Van Rooyen’s family were involved in the prison service.
Van Rooyen’s father, Isaac, is a retired former head of Correctional Services in Knysna, while his brother is a prison warden.
“We still stick to our original decision that Heinrich van Rooyen is guilty and was involved in the murder,” said Bolhuis. “However, we would encourage a thorough investigation into the statement.”
Bolhuis was hired by Stadler’s father, Karl, to investigate her murder. “Karl does not want to be dragged into this all over again,” said Bolhuis. “It was a difficult period for the family and they went through a lot of stress.”
Bolhuis said the family would never rule out any new information presented with regard to the murder, but the evidence that convicted Van Rooyen was overwhelming.
“We were at that stage convinced he was guilty,” he said. “We found him very arrogant and not forthcoming. There was also a lot of evidence which linked him to the crime scene.”
Van Rooyen, who is currently serving two life terms in St Alban’s prison in Port Elizabeth, was found guilty of killing Stadler and another woman, Jessica Wheeler, in 2005.
The bodies of the two girls were found barely a month apart and sparked fears that a serial killer was on the loose in the seaside resort.
Wheeler’s body was discovered in the St George’s Anglican Church yard on October 13. She had been sodomised and her head had been pushed into the ground with force, which resulted in her suffocating.
Stadler’s naked and decomposed body was recovered on November 15, five days after she was reported missing, near the burnt out wreck of her vehicle in the Noetzie Forest.
Van Rooyen was arrested days later and after a marathon trial was found guilty of both murders in 2008. Judge Nathan Erasmus sentenced him to two life terms, a further 20 years for sodomising Wheeler, five years for setting fire to Stadler’s car and three years for defeating the ends of justice.
I saw girl killed, says prisoner
Evidence could clear convicted DJ
She pleaded: ‘Why are you doing this? What have I done to you?’ before she died
– 18-year-old inmate, who spoke after being ‘overcome by feelings of remorse’
THE Daily Dispatch has located and interviewed a prison inmate who could hold the key to the possible innocence of a man in at least one murder after he was convicted of killing two young women in Knysna five years ago.
Following a Dispatch report last week in which we revealed the existence of a bombshell statement by a prisoner relating to the Knysna murders in 2005, the Dispatch travelled to the Western Cape this weekend where we spoke to an 18-year- old inmate from Groot Drakenstein Prison near Paarl.
The inmate gave chilling and detailed information about what, he said, were the last few hours of Knysna waitress Victoria Stadler’s life.
The inmate, who claims to have been present when 20-year-old Victoria Stadler was murdered, said she pleaded with her alleged killers: “Why are you doing this? What have I done to you?”
Her killing and that of another young woman, 18-year-old Jessica Wheeler, rocked the seaside resort of Knysna when their bodies were found just over a month apart in 2005. The killings captured national headlines amid fears that a serial killer was stalking the community.
Local DJ Heinrich van Rooyen was found guilty of both the murders and is serving a double life sentence.
He was sentenced in 2008.
During his trial, his defence team argued that Stadler could have been killed by the people responsible for the death of Peter McHelm. The 48-year-old was killed around the same time as the women and his body was discovered just 900m from Stadler’s in the Noetzie Forest.
This weekend the 18-year-old inmate added new weight to the defence team’s claims as he described in detail what, he said, were the circumstances of Stadler’s murder.
The Dispatch has not been able to independently verify his claims and many of the details he described have emerged in testimony in various trials. He has, however, provided details of other alleged evidence which have not been publicised.
The prisoner spoke openly of how he was in the company of two previously convicted criminals, Aubrey Kemoetie and Byron Moses, along with two other men, the night Stadler was murdered.
Kemoetie and Moses, who had a string of previous convictions against them for serious assault, theft and drug dealing, were later convicted of the murder of McHelm.
Last week the Dispatch reported on new information which could shed light on the killing of Stadler, and could prove Gonubie-based private investigator Christian Botha’s assertion that Van Rooyen is innocent of the crime.
On Saturday morning the Dispatch, in the company of Botha, interviewed the softly spoken inmate at the Western Cape prison where he has been transferred for his safety since making the statement.
The man confirmed that he had made the statement to a George magistrate as he was suffering from nightmares and was overcome by feelings of guilt and remorse.
He said on the night Stadler was killed he had seen her drop Van Rooyen off on the outskirts of Hornlee near Knysna.
“After sitting in the car, they got out and hugged and kissed before (Van Rooyen) walked away,” said the prisoner, who is serving time for an unrelated crime.
Looking nervous and rubbing his hands together continuously as he spoke, he said Stadler had then stopped at a nearby garage to put petrol in her vehicle. He then saw three men, including Kemoetie and Moses, getting into her white VW Golf, which then drove off in the direction of Knysna.
He said the vehicle returned a short while later with Moses driving while Stadler was nowhere to be seen. He said a fourth man, also known to him, was at that stage in the car, although it was unclear where he was picked up.
They instructed him to climb in with them and drove to the public swimming pool in Hornlee where they smoked Mandrax, while Kemoetie used the drug tik. On the way he heard banging noises coming from the boot and when it was opened he saw Stadler tied up in the back, but still alive.
“From there we went back to the petrol station and bought petrol in a can,” he said.
The men then drove to the Noetzie Forest where Stadler’s vehicle was later found burnt out.
Two of the men forced her to hand over her bank card and pin number and then took her car to town, leaving two men, including the inmate, to watch her, he said.
It was at this point that Stadler pleaded with them to let her go, saying she had done nothing to harm them.
He said two of the men had raped her. “They then asked me to stab her but I said no.” He said Stadler had fought and screamed and had scratched one of the men while he was raping her.
He said one of the men had strangled her and indicated how the man had taken her head in the crook of his arm and choked the life out of her. She was then stabbed in the neck, he said.
Stadler’s body was then placed in her Golf and petrol was poured over the vehicle. It was then decided, for reasons unknown to him, to remove her body from the vehicle and place it next to the car, which was then set alight.
A short while later her body was dragged away from the vehicle to some nearby bushes where it was left.
Five days after she was reported missing, Stadler’s naked and badly decomposed body was recovered in the forest less than 100 metres from the wreck of the burnt-out vehicle. A few days later Van Rooyen was arrested and, after a marathon trial, was found guilty and sentenced to life imprisonment after DNA evidence linked him to both girls.
His semen was found on Stadler’s trousers, although in his defence he claimed they had consensually masturbated one another earlier that evening.
Last week a Stadler family spokesperson reiterated their belief that Van Rooyen was guilty of her killing.
Inmate denies link to killing
Prisoner says he knows nothing about murder of Victoria Stadler
ONE of the men implicated in explosive new evidence linking him to the killing of a 20-year-old Knysna waitress has denied involvement in her murder.
Speaking to the Daily Dispatch on Saturday from the maximum security section of Groot Drakenstein Prison near Paarl in the Western Cape, Byron Moses said he knew nothing about the murder of Victoria Stadler.
But new evidence given to the Dispatch from another inmate at the same prison places Moses and convicted criminal Aubrey Kemoetie at the scene on the night Stadler was killed.
Stadler’s partly naked and decomposed body was found in Noetzie Forest five days after she had been reported missing on November 10, 2005.
Soon after, local DJ Heinrich van Rooyen was arrested and convicted for her murder and for the murder of 18-year-old Jessica Wheeler, whose body was discovered a month earlier in the St George’s Anglican Church yard.
Moses and Kemoetie are currently serving out 22 and 27-year prison terms respectively for the murder of Peter McHelm, 48, who was killed around the same time as the women and whose body was discovered about 900m from Stadler’s in the forest.
The Dispatch understands that Kemoetie is incarcerated at Brandvlei Prison in Worcester.
During his trial, Van Rooyen’s defence argued that Stadler could have been killed by the same people responsible for the death of McHelm.
But Moses denied any knowledge or involvement in the Stadler killing. “I don’t know anything about it and I had nothing to do with it,” he insisted.
In his book Search for Truth on his investigations into the Knysna murders, private investigator Christian Botha said Moses had told him in 2005 that he had information on Stadler’s murder. “Byron said he was willing to talk on what he knew about the murder of Stadler if he was given immunity from prosecution,” said Botha yesterday. “Byron had claimed he was under duress at the time McHelm was killed and told me that Kemoetie was a dangerous and violent man and that he was scared of him.”
Van Rooyen’s father, Isaac, said: “This has to come to an end now because we know Heinrich is innocent.”
The Stadler family spokesperson, Mike Bolhuis, questioned several details of the inmate’s account of what happened the night Stadler was murdered but said he would need to re-look at his file before he could comment. “Of course we accept the possibility that there is some truth in what the youngster is saying,” said Bolhuis. “This case needs to be reinvestigated.”
Police spokesperson Captain Malcolm Pojie said police were still following up information made in a statement by the inmate.
Our son’s not guilty
‘If (police) had followed up … then maybe we wouldn’t be here now’
By ANDREW STONE
THE parents of a man sentenced to life in prison for killing two Knysna women have spoken about their renewed hope their son’s innocence in at least one of the killings may be proved.
Speaking to the Dispatch from their modest family home in Hornlee on Tuesday, Isaac and Rebecca van Rooyen said they hoped a statement given by a prisoner at Groot Drakenstein Prison, near Paarl in the Western Cape, would exonerate their son for the murder of a young Knysna waitress in 2005.
The Dispatch spoke to the inmate on Saturday and he admitted to being present the night Victoria Stadler was killed. He also placed two previously convicted criminals, Aubrey Kemoetie and Byron Moses, at the scene.
But Heinrich van Rooyen, a DJ at a nightclub in the popular seaside resort, was arrested in 2005 and found guilty of killing Stadler and 18-year-old Jessica Wheeler in 2008.
He was sentenced to two life terms in prison for the murders by Judge Nathan Erasmus.
Commenting on the new version given by the inmate, Van Rooyen’s father Isaac told the Dispatch he had never doubted his son’s innocence.
“I feel good because some of the new information was given to the police at the time (Heinrich) was arrested,” he said. “If they had followed up on it then maybe we wouldn’t be here now.”
Van Rooyen’s mother Rebecca said the past five years had been an extremely difficult period for the family.
“It’s been tough and it’s very hard to talk about,” she said. “But we always knew the truth would come out eventually and we’ve had a lot of support from the community.”
Rebecca said every Tuesday night the pastor from the local church came and prayed with the family for the safe return of their son. She said they had still not told Van Rooyen’s two children, Sherwin, 4, and Dillan, 7, that their father was in prison.
“They think he works at the prison like their uncle,” she said, adding that the children visited him once every three months.
Van Rooyen’s brother Franklin is a warder at a prison in Knysna.
The 18-year old inmate, who is serving time for an unrelated crime, divulged several details regarding the last few hours of Stadler’s life – including that a taxi driver by the name of William Theron had seen them driving Stadler’s vehicle the night she was murdered, but that Theron was later killed by someone called “Slang” on the orders of Kemoetie. “Aubrey Kemoetie is feared in the community even though he’s still in prison,” said Isaac.
“I always suspected a link between the killing of William and the murder of Stadler. Shortly after Heinrich was sentenced William came to see me twice but I wasn’t at home. He was then killed and I’m sure he wanted to talk to me about what he knew.”
Kemoetie and Moses are currently serving 27- and 22-year prison terms for the murder of Peter McHelm, who was killed around the same time as the young women.
More questions, still no answers
Research into Knysna killings reveals inaccuracies in statement
By ANDREW STONE
A MONTH-long Dispatch investigation has revealed several inaccuracies in a statement given by a prisoner who claimed he was present the night a Knysna waitress was brutally killed in November 2005.
After sifting through thousands of pages of court testimony, case files and legal documents, the Dispatch discovered that many of the claims made by the prisoner were questionable.
The inmate, who is currently serving time at Groot Drakenstein Prison in Paarl for an unrelated crime, made the explosive claim earlier in the year regarding the murder of Victoria Stadler.
The 20-year-old brunette was reported missing on November 10 and her naked and partially decomposed body was discovered five days later near the burnt-out wreck of her VW Golf in the Noetzie Forest.
Heinrich van Rooyen, a Knysna DJ, was later arrested for her murder and for the murder of 18-year-old Jessica Wheeler, whose body was found a month earlier.
Although he maintained his innocence throughout the marathon trial, Van Rooyen was found guilty in May 2008 and was sentenced to two life terms in prison.
Last month the Dispatch travelled to the Western Cape and interviewed the inmate who said he was present the night Stadler was killed – and claimed it wasn’t Van Rooyen who murdered her.
He gave chilling and detailed information about what, he said, were the last few hours of her life. After interviewing him the Dispatch managed to get a copy of the court record from the trial.
After going through the document and even travelling to Knysna to follow up on a lead, serious doubts were raised over the accuracy of the information given by the inmate.
The man claimed he had seen Stadler drop Van Rooyen off on the outskirts of Hornlee the night she was killed. But the point where he said this happened differed from the point where Van Rooyen, who testified in his own defence during the trial, said he was dropped off.
The inmate also said he saw four men climb into Stadler’s vehicle a short while later. But Van Rooyen testified that the back seat of Stadler’s vehicle was stacked with clothes “almost to the roof” because she was in the process of moving to Mossel Bay.
During questioning by advocate Terry Price, Van Rooyen said he had battled to move the front passenger seat back because of all the clothes. This information also challenges the defence’s argument that Stadler was seen driving with three men in her vehicle that night as it is unlikely that anyone would have been able to sit on the back seat.
The inmate told the Dispatch that they had bought R200 worth of petrol in a can and used it to set Stadler’s vehicle alight. However, the forensic fire report claims that after tests were conducted to determine what started the fire “no commonly known flammable liquid could be identified”.
The inmate also said they had forced Stadler to give them her pin number and ATM card and that three men had taken her vehicle to town to draw money from her account. When they returned he said he was given R500. According to Stadler family spokesperson, Mike Bolhuis, and a police source, however, no money was withdrawn from her account on November 10.
The inmate said that after raping Stadler, one of the men took her head in the crook of his arm and choked the life out of her. She was then stabbed in the neck and side, he said. But the postmortem report shows no evidence of her being stabbed.
Van Rooyen’s father, Isaac, said he still believed in his son’s innocence when the Dispatch presented its findings to him.
“The police should still follow up and investigate the people that (the inmate) implicated in the crime,” he said.
Price, who led Van Rooyen’s defence during the trial, said he also still believed that Van Rooyen was innocent in the murder of Stadler. “This new information raises doubts but (the inmate) needs to go under cross examination to determine if he’s telling the truth.”
Christian Botha, who recently released a book titled Search for Truth, which details his investigations into the Knysna murders, said there were still a lot of unanswered questions. “There were a lot of things in this case that weren’t straightforward and there are still a lot of questions that need to be answered,” he said. Western Cape SAPS spokesperson, Captain Malcolm Pojie, said there were no new developments in the investigation into the statement made by the inmate. “The onus is on the family of Mr Van Rooyen or their legal representative to pursue the matter further,” he said.
Knysna ‘murder witness’ admits lying
Parents of convicted murderer still hope to prove his innocence
By ANDREW STONE
A PRISONER who said he had witnessed a young Knysna waitress being brutally murdered in 2005 has admitted to lying, and now claims he was not present the night she was killed.
The man, who was released two weeks ago on parole from a Mossel Bay detention centre for an unrelated crime, said he had fabricated the story as he was trying to “help” convicted Knysna DJ, Heinrich van Rooyen.
Van Rooyen was sentenced in May 2008 for the murders of Jessica Wheeler, 18, and Victoria Stadler, 20, in October and November 2005 – killings that rocked the seaside resort and sparked fears that a serial killer was on the loose.
The Dispatch travelled to Knysna last Friday to interview the man who had earlier in the year given chilling and detailed information about what he had claimed were the last few hours of Stadler’s life.
The pretty 20-year-old brunette was reported missing on November 10 and her naked and partially decomposed body was discovered five days later near the burnt-out wreck of her VW Golf in the Noetzie Forest.
The man had blamed the murder on criminal duo Aubrey Kemoetie and Byron Moses, who were found guilty and are serving time for another murder in the area, which took place about the same time as the women’s murders.
He said he had witnessed Stadler dropping Van Rooyen off on the outskirts of Hornlee and that soon after, three men, including Kemoetie and Moses, had got into her vehicle.
Saying he was overcome with remorse, the man had even gone as far as making a statement to a George magistrate on the killings.
But now the Dispatch can reveal that after spending time with the ex-prisoner and getting him to retrace the steps of what he said happened that night, his version differed from official reports. Discrepancies in his story included:
- Leading Dispatch reporters to the wrong crime scene;
- The spot where he said he saw Stadler drop Van Rooyen off differed from where Van Rooyen said he had been dropped off;
- The direction in which Van Rooyen then walked;
- That Stadler was stabbed in the neck, but the postmortem revealed no evidence of this;
- The spot where Stadler’s body was dumped;
- That he saw nothing “significant” in her vehicle even though it was reportedly full of clothes; and
- That money had been withdrawn from her bank account.
When it was put to him that he was lying, he initially denied it but later broke down and admitted he had made the story up as he did not believe Van Rooyen was guilty.
The man said he had been a car guard outside the club where Van Rooyen worked as a DJ on Knysna’s main street.
“Heinie (Van Rooyen) was always good to us (car guards). I know in my heart he did not kill those girls.”
Van Rooyen’s parents, Isaac and Rebecca, said they were saddened by the news, but still hoped their son’s innocence would be proved.
Christian Botha, who recently released a book titled Search for Truth, which details his investigations into the Knysna murders, said it was important to follow up all information.
“Unfortunately, what (the prisoner) said did not lead anywhere but I still believe Heinrich is innocent and that Kemoetie and Moses were somehow involved.”
Knysna killer’s hopes of early release dashed
‘Now we hope the truth comes out some other way’
By ANDREW STONE
CONVICTED murderer Heinrich van Rooyen said he was devastated by the news that a man who had claimed to be present the night a Knysna waitress was brutally murdered had admitted to lying about the story.
Van Rooyen was arrested in November 2005 for the murders of 20-year-old Victoria Stadler and 18-year-old Jessica Wheeler.
Although he maintained his innocence throughout his marathon trial, Van Rooyen was found guilty in May 2008 and sentenced to two life terms in prison.
He is currently incarcerated at St Albans Prison in Port Elizabeth, ironically where his father Isaac, a retired former head of correctional services in Knysna, once worked.
Van Rooyen, who still maintains his innocence, in an exclusive interview with the Dispatch said he woke at 3am every morning to pray that the truth would eventually come out.
Asked why that time in particular, he replied: “Because my mother gets up then at our home in Knysna to do the same thing and it makes me feel close to her.”
Van Rooyen said he did not know the ex-prisoner who had made the recent claim that he had witnessed the murder of Stadler.
“I don’t think I’ve ever met him before but obviously when I heard the news about what he was saying I got excited.
“It would have been nice if what he said was true, but now we’ll just have to hope the truth comes out some other way.”
Dressed in bright orange prison overalls and looking relaxed, Van Rooyen said he was trying to make the best of his situation and was busy doing an IT course.
“I am dealing with it the best I can,” he said, referring to his imprisonment.
“It’s a battle but I try and do things to keep me occupied and play sports like pool, table tennis, soccer and rugby.
“I’ve changed a lot in the time I’ve been here. I miss the small things in life, like giving my kids and my mom a hug. I miss spending time with my family and this has given me perspective on what I should prioritise when I get out of here.”
Van Rooyen said the support he received from his family kept him going.
“My parents and family have been great and have kept me going,” he said.
“They are not letting me give up. I’ve also noticed more support since Christian Botha’s book on his investigations into the murders was released. I think it’s given people an objective view of what happened and it’s accurate.”
He said he went along with Botha’s assertion that Aubrey Kemoetie and Byron Moses, two men convicted of murdering Peter McHelm around the same time as Stadler was murdered, had information on the murder.
“We need to get people to talk to Aubrey about this because, from what I’ve heard, he speaks about this case a lot.”
But until the day the truth comes out, Van Rooyen said his priority was just to be a model prisoner.
“I have to be. I’m only eligible for parole in 2033. I know it’s a very long time away but I’m not going to give up.”
*The Following story was first published in the daily dispatch on july 06, 2015.
Police follow up new lead in 2005 Knysna murders
Source claims convicted man is innocent
By ANDREW STONE
POLICE detectives from Cape Town were recently sent to Knysna in the Western Cape to follow up on information received from an unnamed source regarding the 2005 murder of 18-year-old Jessica Wheeler.
Wheeler’s body was found in the St George’s Anglican Church yard on October 13. Following the discovery of the body of another young woman, Victoria Stadler, 20, a month later in the Noetzie forest, local DJ Heinrich van Rooyen was arrested.
Van Rooyen was found guilty of both murders after a marathon trial and was sentenced to an effective 30 years in jail without parole. He maintained his innocence throughout the case, which divided the community.
Southern Cape police spokesman Captain Malcolm Pojie last week would not divulge what new information police had pertaining to the murders, but confirmed that detectives from the police’s provincial office in Cape Town “had been sent to follow up information they received from a source that we cannot reveal”.
“As a result they have met with the detective commander and also scrutinised the filed docket pertaining to the murder. Bear in mind that the investigation is finalised following the conviction and sentencing of Heinrich van Rooyen.”
Pojie said police had an obligation to investigate the new allegations.
“The authenticity as well as origin of the information needs to be investigated,” he said.
His comments come on the back of a new probe into the murders by author Alan D Elsdon.
Elsdon, who penned the book The Tall Assassin, recently spent three months in Knysna sifting through evidence gathered over the course of the investigation and subsequent trial.
He claims to have tracked down an eye-witness from the night Wheeler was murdered.
“This eye-witness has made a written statement to an independent attorney and explained how he was a witness to the murder of Wheeler. He explained that the person who murdered her in the Anglican Church yard was in fact a ‘witness’ who had falsely testified in the court case against Heinrich van Rooyen.”
Elsdon said most of the evidence gathered by police during their initial investigation had been of a “forensic nature”, some of which he believes is highly questionable.
“In the end the judge leaned heavily on the evidence of the witness and the forensic evidence presented by the police. He found Heinrich guilty and labelled him a ‘monster serial killer’,” he said.
“During the three months I spent in Knysna I discovered the testimony provided by the key state witness was nothing less than complete state perjury.
“The man is a criminal and described by ex-colleagues as a compulsive liar and untrustworthy.”
Elsdon said he had visited Van Rooyen in prison where he became convinced of his innocence. He would not divulge details of what the eye witness alleges to have seen, but said he had passed the information on to police.
“However, it immediately became clear that the investigating officer’s interest was to try and find fault with the new evidence…the officer was clearly more aware of the negative outcome any proof of perjury and miscarriage of justice would cause the SAPS in Knysna.”
*The following story was first Published in the saturday dispatch on 05/09/2015
Wheeler murder: police dismiss ‘new evidence’
Man claims he saw her being killed
By ANDREW STONE
AN AUTHOR and a former police detective have allegedly tracked down an eyewitness who could shed new light on the 2005 murder of 18-year-old Jessica Wheeler.
The eyewitness, whose identity is being withheld for his own protection, has described in detail how he allegedly saw two men murder Wheeler in the St George’s Anglican Church yard in Knysna on October 13.
The witness has made a written statement to an independent attorney that was video and audio recorded.
Following the discovery of Wheeler’s body, another young woman, Victoria Stadler, 20, was found murdered in the Noetzie forest a month later. Knysna DJ Heinrich van Rooyen was arrested and following a marathon trial was found guilty of both murders. He was sentenced to an effective 30 years in jail without parole.
He has maintained his innocence throughout the case.
Alan D Elsdon, a former East London resident who penned the book The Tall Assassin, and André Els, a former police detective, recently spent three months in Knysna investigating the 10-year-old murders. They said the account given by the new witness calls into question crucial court testimony given by a state eyewitness who placed Van Rooyen at the scene.
Elsdon said their investigation found the testimony of the state witness to be “fabricated and devoid of any truth”.
He said the man had seen Wheeler in the church grounds on the night she was murdered.
“She was with two other men when an argument broke out. Jessica raised her voice and he described how one man grabbed her by her hair and forced her face into the ground. The second male grabbed and held Jessica’s feet as she struggled to break free.
“When Jessica ceased to show any form of life they turned her onto her back and removed her shoes and jeans. The men probably wanted Jessica’s death to appear as sexually motivated.”
Later that morning when her body was discovered police found three cigarette butts at the murder scene. DNA found on one was that of Jessica, the second had no DNA but on the third the DNA of an “unknown male” was found.
Elsdon said they knew the identities of both men implicated and had provided their findings to the SAPS in the Western Cape. “But the police showed no interest in the new evidence.”
Western Cape police spokesman Captain Malcolm Pojie previously told the Dispatch that police were looking into the matter. Contacted for follow-up comment recently, he said: “There is nothing I can further comment on. … the matter has already been finalised.”
Van Rooyen’s brother Franklin said the family still harboured hopes the truth would finally come out. “We are unhappy with the way police handled this matter. As we know the police will have a lot to lose when Heinrich is found not guilty.
EX-COP’S BOOK SHEDS LIGHT ON GIRLS’ MURDERS
September 01, 2018
By ANDREW STONE
An East London born former policeman turned author has written a book which sheds light on one of South Africa’s most compelling murder mysteries – who killed Stellenbosch student Inge Lotz?
Alan D Elsdon’s new book Broken & Betrayed, which hit the shelves on August 26, also delves into the murder of two young girls in Knysna in 2005. A local DJ, Heinrich van Rooyen, was arrested and found guilty of both killings.
Van Rooyen, who is currently serving a 30 year sentence in St Alban’s Prison in Port Elizabeth, has always maintained his innocence.
Elsdon said he became interested in the Knysna murders during late 2013 when he read well known private investigator Christian Botha’s book Search for Truth.
“One of the short stories told of the 2005 murders of Jessica Wheeler and Victoria Stadler,” he said.
“As a former policeman with 20 years service, I was taken aback by glaring police irregularities that Botha and his partner Daryl Els had discovered when in Knysna to investigate the cases.”
Not long after finishing Botha’s book, Elsdon read an article about the 2005 murder of Inge Lotz who had been found dead in her flat in Stellenbosch.
Her boyfriend Fred van der Vyver, who is originally from Queenstown, was arrested and charged but acquitted following a 10 month trial.
It emerged during court proceedings that the police investigation was riddled with irregularities and that evidence had probably been fabricated.
Elsdon said the name of the overall police co-ordinator, Director Attie Trollip, who was in control of both investigations, caught his attention.
What followed was a four year investigation that has taken him around the country as he searched to uncover new facts related to the murders.
“While I was working for a private investigation company in East London in 2014 I started reading up more on the murder of Inge Lotz and the Knysna murders in my spare time,” he said.
“To tackle the case head-on, I visited (Van Rooyen) in prison and after our one-hour meeting I was convinced he did not play an active role in Jessica’s murder and was innocent of Victoria’s murder.
“When I decided to spend the next few years establishing the facts in the Lotz and Knysna murders, I resigned from the company and relocated to the Western Cape.”
Elsdon set about studying police records and court transcripts from the three murders and travelled to Knysna and Stellenbosch on numerous occasions.
His investigations were not done without concerns to his personal safety.
“On two occasions I was confronted by unknown men who had the same message; ‘Hey pal, you are asking the wrong questions in Knysna’,” he said.
“But their warnings only spurred me on to discover the truth.”
Evidence crucial to identifying a suspect in Jessica’s murder was also destroyed in a mysterious fire.
So confident is Elsdon of the new evidence detailed in his book that he has sent a copy to the Hawks in the Western Cape.
“Police need to go back and look into these murders as justice has definitely not prevailed in all of the cases,” he said.
“Trollip was the overall co-ordinator in the investigations and if he and his team used underhand methods to try and convict Fred in Stellenbosch, they could well have applied the same tactics against Heinrich.
“There are so many questions left in all of the cases.”
- Broken & Betrayed is published by Groep7 Publishers and retails for R360 in bookshops.
It is also available as an e-book for R180.