Retractions, polygraphs & 'truth': The Bird Island story

16 April 2019 - 06:31 By Odwa Mjo
Nine days after the release of the book The Lost Boys of Bird Island, co-author Mark Minnie was found dead.
Nine days after the release of the book The Lost Boys of Bird Island, co-author Mark Minnie was found dead.
Image: Supplied

Fact or fiction? That's the big question plaguing the book The Lost Boys of Bird Island after an article in Vrye Weekblad by co-editor Jacques Pauw resulted in the Sunday newspaper Rapport retracting a story it published about the book last year.

In the article on the Vrye Weekblad website, Pauw claims that the co-author of the book, Mark Minnie, had declared his concerns to the publishers four days prior to the book being published.

"We have no concrete evidence that any of the three ministers sexually assaulted any of the victims," wrote Minnie in an e-mail to the publishers.

Two weeks after the book was published, Minnie shot himself dead. 

Here's a timeline of the accusations and subsequent retractions. 

Bird Island

The book, written by Mark Minnie and Chris Steyn, was released in August 2018 and is based on allegations of paedophilia against former apartheid cabinet ministers including Magnus Malan and John Wiley, and another unnamed minister. Although unnamed, former finance minister Barend du Plessis publicly stated that it was clear the book implicated him and he denied all the allegations. 

The book alleged that the ministers and a Port Elizabeth businessman ran a ring where they allegedly raped and molested young coloured boys.


On August 5 2018, Rapport ran a front-page story based on the book and its allegations. At the time, the newspaper wrote that it had sources that claimed ministers did spend time on Bird Island or near Bird Island. It also reported that a man had contacted the publication claiming to have been abused by Malan as a child. 

Minnie dies 

Co-author of the book, Mark Minnie was found dead after an apparent suicide shortly after the book's release. News24 in August reported that the co-authors of the book had been living in fear since the book was published. 

Vrye Weekblad

Journalist Jacques Pauw published an e-mail that he has in his possession in which Minnie stated that there was no concrete evidence of the abuse. The e-mails show that in the first two drafts of the book that were written by Minnie, Malan is not named once.

Chris Steyn 

Co-author of the book Chris Steyn last week said she had taken a polygraph test to prove that the allegations in the book were true. 

She claimed the lie detector test was taken by the head of the American Polygraph Association, Raymond Nelson. She claims the outcome of the test was that she was truthful in the questions she answered.

Rapport retracts its story

On Sunday Rapport issued an apology, calling its decision to publish the story a "mistake."

Rapport admitted that the key allegations in the book were based on "hearsay" and that journalists could not independently verify the information.