Three unanswered questions from The Lost Boys of Bird Island

16 August 2018 - 13:30 By Jessica Levitt
The Lost Boys of Bird Island leaves readers with many unanswered questions.
The Lost Boys of Bird Island leaves readers with many unanswered questions.
Image: Supplied

The apparent suicide of co-author of controversial book The Lost Boys of Bird Island, Mark Minnie, has resulted in suspicion around the circumstances around his death. The book, which was released on 5 August, details an alleged paedophilia ring that operated during apartheid.

Authors Mark Minnie and Chris Steyn named high-profile National Party ministers in that period including John Wiley, Magnus Malan, an unnamed minister and controversial Port Elizabeth businessman Dave Allen as being involved in the operation which allegedly raped and molested young coloured boys.

Minnie was found dead at a friend's farm on August 13 and despite police saying a suicide note and gun was found next to his body, several unnamed friends have expressed their shock at his suicide, with one person telling HeraldLIVE "I do not believe he would have taken his own life."

As speculation around Minnie's death continues and the contents of the book remains a talking point, there are several unanswered questions.

What happened to the boys of Bird Island?

On the final page of The Lost Boys of Bird Island, Mark Minnie appeals to victims of the alleged paedophilia ring to come forward. "Any victims who suffered at the hands of Dave Allen and company, let your voices be heard. Do not remain silent any longer."

Minnie was a former police officer during apartheid when he was asked by his brigadier to contact a woman who was part of his (the brigadiers) church. The woman claimed her son had "some info."

Minnie followed up and the woman and her son led him to her older son who was in hospital. The boy had allegedly been raped and a "foreign object forced up him." Records of the boy's stay at hospital were destroyed.

Minnie meets a second boy, who he refers to as William Hart in the book. William Hart is a pseudonym used by the author to protect the identity of the boy.  Hart was an informant for the police and was also allegedly a victim of the paedophilia ring and was the person who identified Dave Allen, John Allen, an unnamed minister and "Ore" the name the boys used to refer to Magnus Malan.

After months of investigation, the docket with all of the information about the case that Minnie had gathered went missing from his office. 

"Looking around, I quickly discover that the Allen case docket is gone. The entire file has disappeared without my knowledge or approval."

Nobody knows what came of the two boys and the others who were alleged victims of rape and molestation at the hands of ministers.

The mystery matron & 10k

Minnie was sent by his brigadier to speak to a woman her son about "information." He later discovered and interviewed a young boy who had been raped. He had a nurse who was a contact at the hospital and she detailed an incident that happened when she was on night shift.

She said a helicopter had landed, a patient was wheeled into the private ward by three men dressed in grey suits and only the matron was allowed to tend to him. The nurse told Minnie she had peeked into the room and there was a young coloured boy being treated. There was, however, no record of the boy nor of him being in hospital. The matron who had helped the boy mysteriously disappeared, but Minnie tracked her down and she said she had been given R10,000.

"I haven't spent a cent, not a penny, Sergeant Max. All of the money is still here. I always knew it was trouble. It's dirty money. And now God has seen fit to punish me for my sins. Oh God, please forgive me."

The cover-up: The surgeon, the unnamed minister and flight logs 

Both authors mention a surgeon who operated on a boy who had been raped. At the time he said he could not reveal information as it "violates patient confidentiality."

Steyn made contact with the surgeon in 2017.  She said he had become a wine farmer and wrote to him to ask for any information about performing a life-saving operation on a young boy 30 years ago. He took the same stance and said it violated patient confidentiality.

Steyn mentions sources who detailed how the ministers had flown by helicopter to Bird Island. Steyn was told that the logs of passengers who were on the flights weren't likely to be found as the entire "record keeping system has collapsed."

The authors name a second location where boys were allegedly raped and molested. This location is allegedly "a farm" in Witelsbos, near Eerste Rivier, and was a property that belonged to the unnamed minister.

Although the minister has renamed unnamed by the authors, Barend du Plessis, who was the finance minister in PW Botha's cabinet released a statement after the release of the book. He said he was "apparently the third and up to now unidentified minister who is still alive" that the book refers to. 

He said "the fact that I am now raising my hand is absolutely not an admission of guilt to these disturbing allegations. Rather this statement is a confirmation that I am clearly being identified in the book and in news reports, by referring to a former minister who is still alive, who has a holiday home in the Eastern Cape, and who was a frontrunner to take over from the then state president..."

The Lost Boys of Bird Island is published by Tafelberg.

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