Thursday, January 12, 2017

My Visit to the Man Convicted of the 2005 Knysna Murders

Against the wishes of all those around me, including my doctor, I went to visit Heinrich van Rooyen at St Albans prison last Sunday.  With a little faith in the spiritual universe, I got a lift from another visitor who was going to visit someone in Maximum Security.  Heinrich is in Medium B, so after her telling the Wardens that I was in a wheelchair outside, we parted to go our separate ways.
A bus takes the visitors to the various prisons after having ID checks, but I could not do that for two reasons; one was because the prison is not wheelchair friendly and I could not take a wheelchair on a bus.  A separate vehicle was arranged to transport me to Medium.  However, because the radio was not working at the main gate, I had to wait for the bus driver to deliver a message that I needed to be taken into the prison with a different vehicle.
I sat in the boiling sun with no shade for approximately an hour and a quarter.  I pushed myself to the wardens standing a little distance from me smoking and asked for help to get to see Heinrich.  Within 10 minutes I was collected by Mr Oosthuizen and driven to Medium B.  He was courteous, helpful and friendly and pushed me over some horrendous terrain until I got into the building where he left me in the care of another warden who pushed me into the visitor’s area and called for Heinrich.   The wardens did not know who Heinrich van Rooyen was – they only knew him as Heini which I thought was amazing since he was the prisoner and they his jailors.   I waited less than a minute when Heini walked through the door.   I recognised him immediately and waved him over.
Without hesitation, we both put our arms around one another.  I have never met a young man with so much wisdom, pure intentions, good values and a peaceful aura about him.  He is softly spoken and good looking.  No wonder the girls threw themselves at him when he was a DJ.  He has been running 5 km a day for the last 4 months and exercising.  He has rippling muscles which are easily observed under his orange prison uniform.   Medium prisoners are allowed a one hour contact visit.  The warden who was over-seeing the time of the visits was walking up and down the two rows of benches where the prisoners and their loved one’s sat.  He  would shout out the names of the prisoners who had used their hour visit.   When I asked Heini why he shouted like that, Heini chuckled and told me that it is just his way.   On one of his passes past us, I told him (and this was an honest opinion) that he had the most beautiful blue eyes I had ever seen on a man.  I am sure that he had heard that compliment a thousand times.  Then I asked him not to shout when it was time up for Heini’s visit.  Instead of an hour, he gave us an hour and a half and then just waved in our direction to indicate the visit was over.
That hour and a half flew – it felt like we had been together for ten minutes and yet, it felt like I had known him his whole life.  He is like an open book; no hidden agendas and absolute honesty.  You only have to look into his eyes to see what a compassionate human being he is.  For someone who has been imprisoned already 12 years for a crime he did not commit, he is a very well-adjusted young man, considering his circumstances.  He is filled with hope that his innocence can be proved, and that hope is pinned on Alan Elsdon.    I am completely convinced, after reading all  Alan’s investigation notes and affidavits; and speaking to him in person, that Heinrich van Rooyen is innocent of the crimes he has been found guilty and sentenced for.  He faces 30 years in prison without parole for the murder of two girls in Knysna in 2005.   Alan D Elsdon, ex- South African Police detective and the author of the best-selling book, The Tall Assasin, has uncovered massive police corruption and a concerted effort to cover up the crimes committed by others.   He came across Heinrich’s case while investigating another crime in Cape Town.
I sat listening to this bright young man telling me about all the courses he had done through the prison and through other institutions.  Just one more course to do and then he will have completed every course available on IT.  As I sat quietly listening to him, each of our hands intertwined, I felt the tears sliding down my cheeks.  He let go of my one hand and gently wiped the tears from my face, telling me not to cry.  It took so much strength not to start sobbing – the wasted years, the injustice, the family heartache, the careless lawyer and advocate, the corruption and the police cover-up – all these things bounced around inside the walls of my heart.   And my heart ached for him.
When my visit was over, that warden with the beautiful blue eyes, allowed Heini to push me to the door.  From there, Mr Oosthuizen took over.  I sat up front with Mr Oosthuizen, with three visitors that had to be transported to the prison hospital sitting in the back.  Once they had been off-loaded at the hospital, he took me on a tour of the prison before dropping me back at the gate of the prison.  It is enormous and resembles a village.  Some areas are well looked after and other areas are derelict, dirty and it is clear that no maintenance has been done in twenty years.
My lift was waiting for me, concerned that I was taking so long.  Her visit lasted only 30 minutes because she was visiting her son in Maximum.  On our drive back, she told me about the conditions under which the prisoners of Max are held; including what had happened on Boxing Day when the tragedy occurred.  It is little wonder that the prisoners, through sheer exasperation and frustration attacked and stabbed five wardens.  The number of dead and injured prisoners, after the prisoners had already been isolated, boggles the mind. Even prisoners have rights – they did the crime and they are doing the time, but they need to be treated humanely.   If these conditions do not improve, I foresee yet another tragedy unfolding at St Albans Prison in Port Elizabeth.
For justice to prevail, not only for Heinrich van Rooyen, but also for the two young women who were murdered, we need your help.

Funds are desperately needed to take the new evidence and affidavits further in order to free Heini and to put the real Knysna murderers behind bars.   If you can assist with funding in any way, please go to to donate directly via the crowd-funding platform or contact me by email for banking details at   Every rand counts. 
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