Archive for the Crime Category

Bones found near Van Rooyen’s house

Posted in Crime, South Africa on November 15, 2007 by moonflake

In the papers this week:

Material suspected to be human bones have been unearthed at a home in Capital Park, next door to the home of paedophile Gert van Rooyen, Pretoria police said on Wednesday.

Captain Percy Morokane said the owners of the home were installing a swimming pool when the discovery was made on Tuesday evening.

They immediately contacted the police.

Forensic experts visited the site and the material would be sent for forensic testing, said Morokane.

Morokane goes on to elaborate in another article:

The matter is currently under investigation and at this stage we do not know whether what was found are indeed human bones or not. Our forensic experts will analyse the find to determine whether it is human or animal bones.

I’m a little excited about this for a couple of reasons, although Captain Morokane is correct in advising patience. If the bones turn out to be human, and if they are in good enough condition for DNA sampling, and if they can then be matched to one of the missing girls, we will have plenty of reason to celebrate.

Firstly, it’ll be the biggest break in the case in 15 years, will give important closure to at least one family, and may lead to the discovery of the rest of the girls’ remains. I’m sure no one would disagree that this would be the stuff movies are made of, and an enormous relief to the families and the country at large.

But secondly, it may provide proof that Danie Krugel’s super-satellite-DNA-finding machine is worthless. Here are a few extracts from the transcript of the Carte Blanche show where the intrepid investigator with the magic box takes readings to determine the position of the bodies:

To refine the search Danie needed to get at least one more reading on each of the two hair samples from another location.

He travelled to Pretoria and went straight to 227 Malherbe Street, Capital Park, the empty stand where Van Rooyen’s house once stood and the last place where the missing girls are thought to have been.

The data compiled from Yolanda Wessels’ hair was tested again.

Danie: “The first signal I got showed is a line running along the side of Capital Park. Then I went up a few kilometres and the second signal came back to an area very, very close to the railway area in Capital Park.”

At the site Danie also tested Anne-Mari’s data and within ten minutes determined that the signal he’d picked up for her was coming from the same place.

Danie: “Both readings lead me to this area. If you take the reeds and the dam area and you assume you have an accurate reading then this is the correct area. But if there is a slight deviation I would include the railway line. But both readings pointed to this side.”

Ruda: “It was just too much of a coincidence: identical readings for both Yolanda and Anne-Marie pointing to a secluded area less than two kilometres from Van Rooyen’s house. If this empty stretch of land now being developed is indeed the correct location, it can only mean one thing: the two girls are no longer alive.”

Yes, that’s right. If the bones recently found in Capital Park prove to be those of either Yolanda Wessels or Anne-Marie Wapenaar, then Krugel failed to pick them up when he was standing metres away from them, on the plot next door. If he can’t even do that, why would you think he could find people anywhere in the world?

And I find that sort of ironic, because there will be a lot of people who would think that was proof that it did work. I mean, he was only 2 km off. What’s 2 km amongst friends?

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Warren Steed Jeffs found guilty

Posted in Crime, Religion on September 26, 2007 by moonflake

Warren Steed Jeffs, leader of the Fundamentalist Church of Jesus Christ of the Latter Day Saints, and former member of the FBI’s 10 Most Wanted, has been found guilty of abetting in the rape of a minor. The man known to his followers as God’s Prophet forced a 14-year-old girl, the daughter of one of his followers, to marry her 19-year-old cousin. This was despite the girl’s objections, voiced repeatedly to both Jeffs and her mother. The boy of course proceeded to consummate the union, against her wishes, which is commonly known as rape outside of cultland.

You may wonder why neither the boy, who performed the actual rape, nor the girl’s mother, who was as complicit as Jeffs in the whole affair, have not been charged. Why is it that the leader of this sect, long scorned by the rest of the Mormon religion (and that in itself is saying something), is the only one getting blamed in all of this? It might be something similar to the Manson case – old Charlie got the death penalty along with those who actually performed the murders, because he was the one brainwashing them into doing it in the first place. Perhaps one can almost see the mother and cousin as victims here too – victims of the kind of brainwashing that would leave a mother capable of handing over her weeping daughter on the belief that it was god’s will. Or maybe not. I guess since they’re not going to be charged, you’re free to be the judge.

Parliament revealed for the ‘farce’ it is

Posted in Crime, Politics, South Africa on September 6, 2007 by moonflake

So the story goes like this: the Sunday Times reveals that Manto Tshabalala-Msimang was convicted of theft in 1976 while managing a hospital in Botswana, and subsequently expelled from the country and declared a prohobited immigrant. Manto denies it and calls the allegations ‘false, speculative and bizarre‘. But apparently they weren’t anything but true, because the ANC then admits that they knew about her criminal record when they appointed her, and that the president was aware of it too. But it doesn’t matter, because according to South Africa’s constitution, criminals can serve as members of parliament so long as their conviction came with a sentence that was less than 12 months. Yes, you read that right.

Well, the DA certainly weren’t going to stand for it, and MP Mike Waters drafted a question to the minister regarding her history, to be posed to her at the parliamentary meeting on Wednesday of this week. The question asked whether Tshabalala-Msimang had been convicted of theft in 1976 while employed at the hospital in Botswana, and whether she had disclosed this information to President Thabo Mbeki when she was appointed to her portfolio. Manto’s spokesperson confirmed that she would reply to the question in the parliamentary session. The country held its collective breath, waiting to see what her response would be.

And then the Speaker of the House Baleka Mbete took the matter into her own hands, ruling the question out of order:

I have ruled the question by Mr Waters out of order because it transgresses the rules and practice of the National Assembly, particularly rule 63, which forbids the use of offensive or unbecoming language.

It is patently clear from the question that was submitted… that it reflected on the integrity of the minister, as it implies impropriety on her part.

Now, as you know it is an established principle of this House that allegations against another member can only be brought before the House by way of a substantive motion.

Such a motion should be properly motivated and substantiated. Members can not be allowed to reflect on the integrity of others in the form of questions, or other means, other than through the mechanisms that this House has imposed upon itself.

So I have ruled the question out of order and I am not going to allow a debate on the matter.

Her ruling rightly provoked an uproar from the opposition benches, and Waters demanded to know which words in particular in his question were ‘unbecoming’. The speaker tried to dismiss his question, but when he became insistent, she ordered him out of the house. Waters stormed from the room, with this as his parting shot:

This is a farce, an absolute farce… you’re covering up for a thief!

In a press statement issued later that day, he called parliament ‘a mouthpiece of the state’ and ‘a damp squid with no backbone to demand that our government conduct itself with integrity and honesty’.

I am constantly amazed at the lengths the ANC will go to protect a woman who has been nothing short of an embarrassment to this country for her entire term of office. I’m possibly more amazed at how they continue to get away with it, time and time again.

Update 07/09/07: Speaker of the House Baleka Mbete has now suspended Mike Waters from Parliament, in a move that saw a mass exodus of DA MPs following in his wake, to ‘defend democracy’. But Mbete may have played right into their hands, as she stated in her defense that the correct course of action if questioning Manto on the subject would be to move a substantive motion, not bring it up as a written question. DA Chief Whip Ian Davidson has now done precisely that, calling for the appointment of an ad hoc committee to investigate whether Manto is fit to hold public office. I’m wondering how Mbete is going to get around this one, after she opened the door herself?

Scientology Faces Criminal Charges… again

Posted in Crime, Religion on September 5, 2007 by moonflake

Following a comprehensive 10-year investigation into the Church of Scientology, a Belgian prosecutor has recommended that the US-based organization be charged with fraud and extortion, and labelled a ‘criminal organization’. Whether the Belgian courts will follow his recommendation is now up to an administrative court to decide.

Of course, it’s not the first time Scientology has fallen foul of the law. In the 70s, Operation Snow White, in which scientologists raided government agencies, foreign embassies and consulates in a sanctioned attempt to wipe out any unfavourable facts about the church and its members, lead to eleven high ranking scientologists going to jail, including Hubbard’s own wife. Following that, the Canadians started investigating the church’s activities within their borders, which culminated in R vs. Church of Scientology of Toronto, in which seven members were convicted and the church itself was found guilty of breaching the public trust, and fined.

No big surprise that yet another country has figured out that the scientologists aren’t what they seem.

Pseudoscientists, Psychics, and Pop Psychologists: Danie Krugel resurfaces on Carte Blanche

Posted in Crime, Pseudoscience, psychics, South Africa on July 30, 2007 by moonflake

I don’t have MNet, so it was certainly interesting to discover that Danie Krugel had appeared on Carte Blanche again last night, by a sudden slew of new comments on old posts on the subject.

Yes indeed, it appears Danie was on Carte Blanche, and the formerly-respectable magazine show has sunk to new lows with this episode (transcript here). I can only express heartfelt dismay that Ruda Landman is ending a shining career in investigative journalism on this sorry and pathetic note.

I have read through the transcript, and I can only say that if you were taken in by that episode, then they must have been sending some sort of subliminal stupidity signal through the TV that wasn’t evident in the written words. I cannot fathom how some of the people who have commented following this episode consider it to be the success story to silence the critics. The only thing restoring my faith in humanity is the equal number of people expressing distaste for the three ring circus this show has become.

Let me summarise the highlights for you:

  • Carte Blanche decides to resurrect the investigation of notorious 80s paedophile Gert van Rooyen, by bringing in Danie to find the bodies of the missing girls. It’s a ratings dream: a paedophile who died before he could pay for his crimes or lead the police to the bodies of the girls he took. Two decades without answers amid massive news coverage and rumours of satanic rituals, police conspiracies and child prostitution rings… and in the midst of it all, families desperate for closure. In other words, prime pickings for the unscrupulous bottom feeders of society.
  • Danie uses a sample from a lock of Anne-Marie Wapenaar’s hair, kept by her mother, in his ‘device’. He receives a weak signal and claims that he might be getting interference from the rest of the lock (how interesting that he has never mentioned before that this could happen, and never seemed to get interference from the hair brushes and razors provided in other cases). The rest of the lock is brought to Danie’s location, and he receives a strong signal in Pretoria.
  • He does the same with Yolande Wessels’ hair, using a braid kept by her mother after it was cut off. Naturally, he receives a strong signal, again in Pretoria.
  • Allow me to remind you at this point that a braid that has been cut off cannot contain any roots, which means there is nothing physically present in that sample of hair to distinguish it as Yolande Wessels’. Should a body actually be found, and DNA extracted from the remains, that braid would not contain enough information to prove a match. Yet Danie claims he can use it to find her amongst nearly 7 billion other living people, and who knows how many dead people, on and under the earth.
  • Also allow me to remind you that Danie knows he is being asked to find the bodies of the missing girls in the van Rooyen case, and the location of the house where van Rooyen lived, and took the seventh girl who escaped, is public knowledge. In fact, it’s practically infamous.
  • So off they go from Bloemfontein to Pretoria, and despite claiming he now needs to refine the search to a more detailed location than just ‘Pretoria’, Danie heads straight to van Rooyen’s house. Proof positive that he knows the location, and has already made up his mind where he’s going, without the use of his device.
  • He then refines the search and leads them to an open plot, close to van Rooyen’s house and even closer to the spot where van Rooyen and his accomplice died. Yawn. Predictable.
  • Danie then identifies a search area for each body, each area being roughly the size of a football pitch. Assuming ‘roughly’ means about 100m by 50m, times two, that’s about a hectare of ground to cover. Danie claims he cannot refine the search further.
  • Let me repeat that – he receives a ‘strong signal’ from Bloemfontein that leads him directly to van Rooyen’s house in Pretoria, but when he’s standing at the site, suddenly he can’t refine it any more and claims he may be out by 100m. Add to that the fact that when he first tested the device, he located his son at a distance of 2m. Either his device has become less accurate over time, or he’s trying to give himself a wide enough search area to improve the chances of locating something that could be claimed as a hit.
  • So Carte Blanche digs. And digs. And digs some more. And predictably, in an area that has been used as a dumping ground, and lived on by farmer workers, they find remains of just about everything, including some fragments of bone that may or may not be human. No skeletons yet.
  • Now this is where things get really hysterical. Given that Danie cannot narrow the search any further, Carte Blanche turn to an expert who might be even more qualified than Danie at what he does (take that as you will) – they bring in a clairvoyant. Yes, read that again. Carte Blanche, not satisfied with a pseudoscientist, consult a psychic.
  • And then, as an aside, they express amazement that she told them what they were looking for before they told her. Gosh, colour me shocked, an expert at cold reading figured out what they were looking for, almost certainly after they had given her plenty of clues that they now don’t recall as important.
  • The psychic enchants them with her vague, generic claptrap. Naturally, despite the fact that she is willing to commit to more precise locations than Danie, they still don’t find any skeletons.
  • With only bone fragments to go on, they send the lot to be analysed for DNA. Predictably, amongst the bits and pieces of chickens, dogs and pigs, they eventually find a few bone fragments that can be shown to be human, from six individuals – four male, two female.
  • They take DNA from the mothers of the missing girls… but the DNA in the bone fragments is too degraded to make a match.
  • I’m going to explain that again slowly. No skeletons of little girls. No skeletons at all. Tiny fragments of bone, a tiny fraction of which were identified as human, two thirds of which were identified as male.
  • Carte Blanche then previews the show to the parents, who seem to accept the finding of partial, unidentified remains six blocks from van Rooyens house as some sort of closure.
  • No doubt in order to avoid looking like scum for re-opened old wounds with no conclusion, Carte Blanche offers two psychologists to council the grieving parents. One of the psychologists is a popular TV personality “Dr. D”, who appears regularly on SABC’s “Three Talk with Noelene”. The trifecta of prime time exploitation is complete – pseudoscientists, psychics and pop psychologists.
  • Danie Krugel is hailed as a success. The scientists want to do more tests. Carte Blanche promises to hand their findings over to the police. The End.

I ask you this – if a policeman had claimed to have made a breakthrough in the case, while investigating old evidence, and led forensic experts, archaeologists and anthropologists to an empty plot within spitting distance of where van Rooyen lived and died, and days and days of digging revealed only fragments of bone, from animals, men and women, and no conclusive identification of the bones as belonging to the girls, or dating of the bones to see when they were buried, or even any way to prove that the few female bones belonged to girls and not women … would we be celebrating it as a success? Be honest – we would be bitching about the waste of time and claiming those bones could be anyone’s.

In my opinion, this has been a shameless exploitation of the families of the missing girls, and of their memories. All I can say is that there was a time when Carte Blanche was a respected news programme, but this latest travesty has proven that they are as low down dirty as the SABC. To those who pay good money to watch this garbage – you should write to Multichoice demanding your fees for July be paid back.

Update: George Claassen, Director of Sceptics South Africa, and former science editor of Die Burger, has written a guest column on News24 giving his opinion on the topic.

Also, as one visitor has pointed out, you can leave your comments on the episode on the Carte Blanche website if you feel strongly one way or another. Unfortunately you will need to sign up as a site member to do so.

Update 2: There is now a Facebook Group “Carte Blanche have finally lost the plot completely”. I finally popped my facebook cherry for no better reason than to join this group.

Update 3: another journalist, Gill Gifford, actually doing her job and reporting on the other side of the story, instead of falling over herself to lap up Carte Blanche’s sloppy seconds like the rest of them. Good on ya, Gill. And then there’s this article – interesting how quickly the story changes when the critics are finally given a voice. Suddenly the machine has a name: the Matter Orientation System (MOS)… although personally I would have gone with Particle Orientation System, or POS. According to a spokesman, “Controlled environment testing is currently under way” – fantastic! I can’t wait to see the results published in a peer reviewed journal. And lastly, Danie is now claiming that his discovery may be evidence that van Rooyen also preyed on little boys. I… just… don’t have the words. 

Sussex Police fall for full moon lunacy

Posted in Crime, Pseudoscience, Stupidity on June 7, 2007 by moonflake

The Sussex police force is going to be putting more officers on the street during full moons because they believe the lunar cycle may be linked to violent behaviour. They cite a comparison between last year’s violent crimes and a graph of the full moons, conducted by Inspector Andy Parr.

Forgive me for thinking that Inspector Andy is unlikely to have the kind of skills in statistical analysis required to tell the difference between significance and synchronicity. At the very least, he should be able to acknowledge that maybe, just maybe, all the research that has gone before, conducted by actual professionals, could trump his informal little study.

According to skepdic, a metastudy conducted in 1996 that looked at over 100 other studies on the moon’s relationship to earthly events (other than tides) concluded that the studies had so far failed to show any reliable or significant correlation between lunar cycles and any of the following:

  • the homicide rate
  •  traffic accidents
  • crisis calls to police or fire stations
  • domestic violence
  • births of babies
  • suicide
  • major disasters
  • casino payout rates
  • assassinations
  • kidnappings
  • aggression by professional hockey players
  • violence in prisons
  • psychiatric admissions
  • agitated behavior by nursing home residents
  • assaults
  • gunshot wounds
  • stabbings
  • emergency room admissions
  • behavioral outbursts of psychologically challenged rural adults
  • lycanthropy
  • vampirism
  • alcholism
  • sleepwalking
  • epilepsy

But I guess they didn’t specifically add ‘aggressive behavior in drinkers in the seaside city of Brighton and Hove’, so it’s hardly an exhaustive study.

And here’s why superstition is bad…

Posted in Crime, South Africa, Superstition on April 23, 2007 by moonflake

On page 13 of the weekend paper, in a tiny article that you’d miss if you were paging fast, was this story:

Six people have been arrested following the murder of three family members near Lusikisiki in the Eastern Cape, SABC radio news reported.

The arrested people allegedly hacked to death a 70-year-old woman, her daughter, 56, and a grandson they accused of witchcraft.

The murders were carrier out on Wednesday night after the three were kept captive for four hours.

“The mob of villagers who believed they were witches held them captive at the Gura locality and then killed them,” said Easter Cape police spokesman Captain Zamukulungisa Jozana.

Police expected to make more arrests.

Allowing people to accept a concept such as witchcraft without requiring any real proof that it exists, is allowing them to accept that someone is a practitioner of witchcraft without requiring any real proof that they are.