Alex Eliseev

Cold Case Confession

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Unravelling the Betty Ketani Murder

‘… if you are reading this then I am dead.’

This is the opening line of a letter hidden under a carpet for a decade. The chilling words are followed by a confession to a murder committed nearly 13 years earlier. The chance discovery of the letter on 31 March 2012 reawakens a case long considered to have run cold, and a hunt begins for the men who kidnapped and killed Betty Ketani – and were convinced they had gotten away with it. The investigation spans five countries, with a world-renowned DNA laboratory called in to help solve the forensic puzzle. The author of the confession letter might have feared death, but he is very much alive, as are others implicated in the crime.

Betty Ketani, a mother of three, came to Johannesburg in search of better prospects for her family. She found work cooking at one of the city’s most popular restaurants, and then one day she mysteriously disappeared. Those out to avenge her death want to bring closure to Betty’s family, still agonising over her fate all these years later.

The storyline would not be out of place as a Hollywood movie – and it’s all completely true. Written by the reporter who broke the story, Cold Case Confession goes behind the headlines to share exclusive material gathered in four years of investigations, including the most elusive piece of the puzzle: who would want Betty Ketani dead, and why?

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The print book is available at all good bookstores around the country.

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  • This case is like an Agatha Christie whodunit: abduction, murder and a confession.

    CARTE BLANCHE
  • Unputdownable, riveting, utterly fascinating. My book of the year. By far. 

    DEON MEYER
  • This book has become a South African classic. 

    JENNY CRWYS WILLIAMS
  • Wonderful, evocative and vivid writing. Eliseev is a very exciting new talent.

    PETER JAMES
  • This story inspires confidence in the system and affirms that we are all equal before the law.

    THULI MADONSELA
coldcaseblog

Cold Case Blog

News about the case, book events and reviews... they're all here, along with over three years' worth of posts from inside the courtroom.

Let’s Go!

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Trial by Numbers

The Betty Ketani case was hailed by the National Prosecuting Authority as a "landmark trial" that will help develop law in South Africa. (These numbers exclude sentencing and appeals.)

6498

Transcript Pages 

97

Court Days 

46

Witnesses 

4

Years 

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The Confession Letter

Without this 3-page letter, discovered under a carpet, the truth about Betty Ketani's murder would have remained hidden forever. This document became the single most important piece of evidence in the trial.

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the-accused

The Accused

  • Author of the confession. Convicted of murdering Betty Ketani. Carrington claims he is being framed.

    Carrington Laughton

    Author of the confession. Convicted of murdering Betty Ketani. Carrington claims he is being framed.
  • Confession found at his house. Conway buried Ketani's body and helped rob the shallow grave. Turned state witness.

    Conway Brown

    Confession found at his house. Conway buried Ketani's body and helped rob the shallow grave. Turned state witness.
  • Carrington's childhood friend. Paul helped dispose of Ketani's body. Turned state witness.

    Paul Toft-Nielsen

    Carrington's childhood friend. Paul helped dispose of Ketani's body. Turned state witness.
  • Policeman convicted of kidnapping Ketani from a hospital and leaving her to die inside an old bus.

    David Ranger

    Policeman convicted of kidnapping Ketani from a hospital and leaving her to die inside an old bus.
  • Former policeman convicted of kidnapping Ketani from a hospital and abandoning her on a remote farm.

    Carel Ranger

    Former policeman convicted of kidnapping Ketani from a hospital and abandoning her on a remote farm.
  • A crucial link in how the confession reached Conway, who hid it under the carpet. Dirk turned state witness.

    Dirk Reinecke

    A crucial link in how the confession reached Conway, who hid it under the carpet. Dirk turned state witness.
  • Author of the confession. Convicted of murdering Betty Ketani. Carrington claims he is being framed.

    Carrington Laughton

    Author of the confession. Convicted of murdering Betty Ketani. Carrington claims he is being framed.
  • Confession found at his house. Conway buried Ketani's body and helped rob the shallow grave. Turned state witness.

    Conway Brown

    Confession found at his house. Conway buried Ketani's body and helped rob the shallow grave. Turned state witness.
  • Carrington's childhood friend. Paul helped dispose of Ketani's body. Turned state witness.

    Paul Toft-Nielsen

    Carrington's childhood friend. Paul helped dispose of Ketani's body. Turned state witness.
  • Policeman convicted of kidnapping Ketani from a hospital and leaving her to die inside an old bus.

    David Ranger

    Policeman convicted of kidnapping Ketani from a hospital and leaving her to die inside an old bus.
  • Former policeman convicted of kidnapping Ketani from a hospital and abandoning her on a remote farm.

    Carel Ranger

    Former policeman convicted of kidnapping Ketani from a hospital and abandoning her on a remote farm.
  • A crucial link in how the confession reached Conway, who hid it under the carpet. Dirk turned state witness.

    Dirk Reinecke

    A crucial link in how the confession reached Conway, who hid it under the carpet. Dirk turned state witness.
our-service

The #ColdCase Library

Welcome to the library. Here you will find some of the key documents relating to the Betty Ketani case and other useful material to help you navigate the story...

The Judgment

Explore the full judgment delivered by Judge Natvarial Ranchod on February 17, 2016. Select: Part 1 and Part 2.

Breaking the Story

Listen to how, on May 24, 2012, the story broke on Eyewitness News. Click here.

Missing Persons Docket

Page through some of the police file opened in 1999 after Betty Ketani disappeared. Click here.

Confessions

Read the confessions of the state’s key witnesses. Select: Conway Brown or Paul Toft-Nielsen or Dirk Reinecke.

DNA Report

Review the DNA report issued by the ICMP laboratory in Bosnia and Herzegovina. Click here.

Handwriting Report

The police’s handwriting and signature analysis. Click here.

Analysis

On Air: Unpacking the case with 702’s Gushwell Brooks. Listen to the Q&A

Voices

From inside the courtroom. Select: Conway Brown or Paul Toft-Nielsen or Dirk Reinecke or Carrington Laughton.

Further Reading

Links to local and international coverage of the Betty Ketani case. Click here.

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The Author

  • ALEX ELISEEV is a senior reporter and editor at Eyewitness News. An award-winning journalist, he has reported from as far afield as Haiti, Japan, Libya and Russia. Eliseev has worked for some of South Africa’s top newspapers, including The Star and Sunday Times. He is a regular contributor to Daily Maverick and was able to work on this book with the assistance of a Taco Kuiper grant.

  • ALEX ELISEEV is a senior reporter and editor at Eyewitness News. An award-winning journalist, he has reported from as far afield as Haiti, Japan, Libya and Russia. Eliseev has worked for some of South Africa’s top newspapers, including The Star and Sunday Times. He is a regular contributor to Daily Maverick and was able to work on this book with the assistance of a Taco Kuiper grant.

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EWN
Pan Macmillan
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