Of Prodding Tigers and Unforeseen Consequences

Now I don’t mind receiving the odd threat in the course of researching a psychopath, it is to be expected, but then my poor old blogging friend and acquaintance Colonialist commented on my previous post (a very innocuous comment too: “I don’t care” it went) and got an extraordinary response from the “Coalition Against Cyber Bullying” warning him to “button it” or he would be “dealt with”.

Three things spring to mind; firstly my disappointment that my personal tiger prodding led to an innocent blogger getting threatened, secondly that the Coalition obviously has very little sense of irony in that they used cyberspace to do their crude threatening, and lastly that the coalition is probably unaware that Colonialist served under both Sir Charles Hambro and Orde Wingate and as such is probably not overly worried by their threats.

Now please be careful out there

CRIME FICTION – FEEDBACK WANTED – VERSION 2

[The Canadian writer, blogger and journalist Cory Doctorow (not to be confused with E.L.Doctorow) suggests that his “favorite, foolproof way to start a story is with a person in a place with a problem, preferably in the first sentence” and apart from the bad spelling of ‘favourite’ I found this useful advice. I’m busy rewriting the beginning of “Vague Traces” and culling words, and I thought I’d try out a stab here and see if I get some useful feedback – honesty of course is valued more highly than politeness and the big question is “Does this grab you ?”. The two characters you meet are both minor but are pivotal to the plot, as is “the big man”. My gut instinct is that it does not flow simply enough for an opening and needs to be bashed around and simplified a bit more]

“Toween… toweeen” came the cries of the urchins who acted as conductors for the minibus taxis, as they tried to drum up customers for the trip into town. The overweight man sitting next to the window of the coffee shop briefly  considered whether a white guy catching a mini-bus taxi would be remarkable and therefore remembered. He did need to get to town, but he needed to do it in a way that would not be memorable, should anybody come asking questions later.

He had just ordered a second coffee and he pretended to concentrate on his Sudoku, as he planned his next move and silently cursed his lack of planning. He was reasonably sure his car would be tracked and so he had parked it on the outskirts of town, at the university who were having an open day. Now he needed to get to his appointment.

A Metro-Cabs metered-taxi pulled up and deposited two ladies; judging from their clothes and make-up they were possibly escorts on their way home. He watched to see if the cab was going to wait for the ladies and when he saw one of them paying the driver he rushed out of the coffee shop and jumped into the cab.

Bernard Latje was good waiter, very good in fact, and he knew when customers wanted to talk and when they wanted to be left alone. The overweight man had so obviously wanted to be left alone that Bernard was not surprised he left without a word, but  it did surprise him that the customer had hardly touched his second coffee and that he then climbed into a Metro-cab when his own car keys had earlier been lying on the table. It was probably nothing, thought Bernard,  but it was worth remembering to tell the Big Man if he came past later. It was always better to have something to tell the Big Man, even if it turned out to be nothing important.

Innocent Until Proven Guilty

“Remember he is innocent until proven guilty” the elderly gentleman sitting at the corner table next to the lamp with the brass flowers on the lampshade was reacting to something another customer had said from the next table, the one under the brightly coloured fabric display.  The conversation had moved from Oscar Pistorious to Shrien Dewani; the admonishment could have applied to either,  opinion in the coffee shop having found both suspects guilty.

“Not really” ventured the waiter “Someone is guilty the moment they commit a crime. There is a legal presumption of innocence but that is to ensure a fair trial, it does not make the person innocent”.

“Yes” said the corner gentleman “And we should afford him the some presumption until the judge’s gavel sounds the verdict”.

Something didn’t sit right with this last statement and I thought about it for a bit. I could understand where the corner gentleman was coming from, warning about jumping to hasty conclusions and of the danger of trials by media. So what was it that didn’t sit right ? I pondered for a while and then a little inner voice asked me “What about the Hurricane ?”.

And that was it, that was the reason to disagree with  the corner gentleman’s warning against speculating about guilt or innocence, because sometimes speculation and public opinion can get things spot-on which courts get horribly wrong. Not only Hurricane Carter, many other wrongly convicted people have public opinion to thank for their eventual release.

And what is good for the innocent is good for the guilty, surely, and thus if the court of public opinion is an important cog in the justice machine then, I put it to you, we can continue to speculate and talk, mull over evidence, and play prosecutor and defence team, to object and be sustained.  

Feedback wanted – Crime Fiction

[The Canadian writer, blogger and journalist Cory Doctorow (not to be confused with E.L.Doctorow) suggests that his “favorite, foolproof way to start a story is with a person in a place with a problem, preferably in the first sentence” and apart from the bad spelling of ‘favourite’ I found this useful advice. I’m busy rewriting the beginning of “Vague Traces” and culling words, and I thought I’d try out a stab here and see if I get some useful feedback, honesty of course is valued more highly than politeness and the big question is “Does this grab you ?”. The two characters you meet are both minor but are pivotal to the plot, as is “the big man”. My gut instinct is that it does not flow simply enough for an opening and needs to be bashed around and simplified a bit more]

 

The overweight man sitting next to the window of the coffee shop ordered a second coffee and seemed to concentrating on his Sudoku. He was in fact  thinking through his next move and silently cursing his lack of planning. He had parked his car at the nearby University which was having an open day, but now he needed to get into the city centre undetected and he had forgotten to plan for this. It was fairly simple these days to track cars via their own legitimate satellite tracking systems, this only required  hacking into the tracking company’s computer. He assumed he was at a level of surveillance that this was being done to his car but he doubted he was being physically tailed. So it wasn’t a huge or insurmountable problem, he just needed to get into town in a way that would not be memorable  should anybody come asking questions later.

“Toween… toweeen” came the cries of the urchins who acted as conductors for the minibus taxis and who were trying to drum up customers for the trip into town, and the man briefly  considered whether a white guy catching a mini-bus taxi would be remarkable and therefore remembered.

Just then a Metro-Cabs metered taxi pulled up and deposited two ladies, possibly escorts on their way home. He checked to see if the cab was going to wait for them, and when he saw one of the ladies paying the driver he rushed out and jumped into the cab.

Bernard Latje was good waiter, very good in fact, and he knew when customers wanted to talk and when they wanted to be left alone. This guy had so obviously wanted to be left alone that Bernard was not surprised he left without a word, but  what did surprise him was that the customer had hardly touched his second coffee and that he then climbed into a Metro-cab when his own car keys had being lying on the table. It was probably nothing, but worth remembering to tell the Big Man if he came past later. It was always better to have something to tell the Big Man, even if it turned out to be nothing important.

 

 

Causes Celebre – What Makes One Criminal Become More Famous Than Another

Jack the Ripper, easily one of the most famous criminals in history, and the fact is he killed five women, confirmed, and maybe six others (two prior to the confirmed murders and four after). Chances are the number is closer to five than eleven. Ever heard of Luis Garavito ? He is a Colombian proven to have killed 138 people, mainly street children, but maybe he killed as many as 400.

So its not just about numbers, something else must capture the public’s interest: Jeffery Dahmer is also a very famous murderer, but most probably because he ate some body parts and preserved others. Fact is he killed 17 people, which is quite a lot,obviously, but about half of the tally of the also-famous Ted Bundy, and then John Wayne Gacy killed about the same number as Bundy, but both were less than half of the admitted murders of Gary Ridgeway (confessed to killing 71 people). Which ones had you heard of ?

Dr Swango was convicted of four murders, chances are that he killed around 60 people, some of them in Zimbabwe, others in the USA.

Many children have gone missing since Madeleine McCann, and yet how many of them do you hear about ?

Locally, its easy to see why Oscar Pistorius killing Reeva Steenkamp was such huge news, and the Dewani case has is obvious “media hooks”, but why do some other cases stick in the spotlight and yet others fade out of it or not get there at all. It was big news when white girl Dina Rodrigues had her white boyfriend’s coloured baby killed, but less newsworthy, for some reason, was white guy Gerald Rosselloty killing his black girlfriend. Thus newsworthy does not also relate to race; Anene Booysen was a poor township girl tragically attacked, violently raped and killed and it caused a huge outcry, but shocking numbers of other violent rapes do not even get to the front pages.

So what is it ?

The Strange Case of Ian Brakspear (Part 2)

In one way, I feel a rah-rah and bring-it-on and bullish because Ian Brakspear’s case starts on Monday in the Durban high court, he has a full two weeks set aside, he may any witness he likes including court officials, the Black lawyers Forum will be there as a Friend of the Court to keep a close watch on things, as will advocacy groups like NewERA. And so we might finally see some justice in this particular case, and I hope its a very uncomfortable fortnight indeed for the despicable Leonard Katz.

In another way, I feel more depressed each time I talk and/or write about this case with the rotten state of the cosy old-boys club that justice clearly is in this country. The arrogance with which the various establishment players bent and broke the law reminds one of the false entitlement attitudes of the Nixon team during and before Watergate.

Incredible, shocking and amazing. as one very high profile case draws to a close (Oscar) and another looms (Dewani) it seems that ,most people don’t even realise that a far more important case, with huge implications, is about to start.

Rah-rah, bring it on !!

The Strange Case of Ian Brakspear

Next week Ian Brakspear goes to court; a little guy standing up against some giants (the large and prestigious law firm Edward Nathan Sonnenbergs (ENS) as well as Nedbank)  and in some ways the whole legal establishment.

You can read in depth about the shocking miscarriage of justice (perpetrated in the main by a director of ENS, Leornard Katz) in Noseweek 177, on the consumer rights website NewERA and even on praag.org, but very briefly: Brakspear had a wine farm that was losing him money, he could not repay the bond to RMB bank and so looked to sell, and in fact he had a firm offer for R37.75 million, easily able to repay the bond of around R13 million. So no problem there. He had used a trust of his in Jersey to guarantee the bond and so he let Fairbain Trust know, as this Nedbank subsidiary acted as trustee on his behalf. Still no problem, and Brakspear had acted correctly all along. Now comes a cock-up; the MD of Fairbain cc’s an e-mail meant only for Brakspear to the potential buyer, who realises it could suddenly turn into a distressed sale and he could get the farm for a whole lot less, so he withdraws the offer. It is by now too late for Brakspear to find another buyer, the bond was foreclosed and the farm auctioned to the same buyer for R18 million. Huge and costly cock-up, and one that left Nedbank facing a large damages claim. A cock-up but they happen, the really bad stuff happened only after that.

The neighbouring farm is owned by Johann Rupert and he intimated that he would have been prepared to pay R25 million for the farm. Leonard Katz decided therefore to sequestrate Brakspear personally, which would remove the threat of a damages claim and allow the liquidators to cancel the 18 million sale and enter into another with Johann Rupert. An illegal, immoral and unethical scheme that would prejudice Brakspear hugely even though he had done nothing wrong.

It gets worse because in order to sequestrate Brakspear it seems that Katz got two Nedbank honchos, Nico Botha and David McReady, to invent a loan to Brakspear’s trust. How these two bankers could be persuaded to go along with the scheme only they can tell you, although I will be e-mailing them personally to ask them.

The baddies then faked a court order and got the sheriff to attach Brakspear’s property, and that stage they probably thought they were home and dry, but thank goodness Brakspear knew that there was no loan and fought back. Representing himself due to lack of funds Brakspear has had to face vilification as well as physical threats.

Let us hope that next week’s case sees some relief for over David and some jail time for the collective Goliath. Probably not, but let’s hope.

 

It's a crime

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