Victim or “Puppet Master”?

Carrington Laughton spent 13 days on the witness stand. There was far too much testimony for me to cover everything here, save to say that the fundamental dispute over who wrote the hidden confession remains firmly in place. Laughton didn’t move an inch from his claim that he is being framed for murder and that the confession, which was discovered (by pure chance) under a carpet three years ago, is a forgery.

The former private detective was an impressive witness. Prosecutor Herman Broodryk must have realised that he was not going to get him to surrender or admit to anything. Once, somewhere towards the end, Laughton told the court he felt tired. But when asked whether he was willing to continue, he fell straight back into his rhythm.

Most days were consumed by the details – dates, people, places, routes, documents, memories, sequences of events, a missing comma in the court record… Other days saw tense exchanges between prosecutor and accused. Broodryk searched for discrepancies and lies, finding weak spots and applying as much pressure as he could. He also worked on Laughton’s credibility. What was important to the state was all the questions that Laughton didn’t ask its witnesses or the statements that went unchallenged. This, Broodryk argued, showed that he had waited for the state to finish its case before creating a version, which was tailored to fit the evidence.

“All along, you did not have a version,” Broodryk charged. “You made up a version based on the state’s case. You have no defense…”

But Laughton stuck to his guns, arguing that his legal advice was to wait until he opened his case before presenting his version and alibi. He used words like “nonsensical” or “preposterous” to challenge the state’s case. He pushed back against Broodryk when he needed to, accusing him of asking unfair or vague questions.

And so the court has been left with two versions. One presented by Laughton, which shifts the entire time frame of events and has him in another city when the crime is committed. The other offered by the state, which paints him as the “puppet master” of the Betty Ketani kidnapping and murder in mid 1999. We’ll know which the court believes when judgment is delivered.

From here, the defense is calling its own expert witnesses to dispute the DNA and handwriting findings presented by the state. It will also call one of Laughton’s friends to support the allegation that a conspiracy was hatched against him.

Follow the case: @alexeliseev

DNA Results Emerge a Month Before Trial

12 June 2013

I’ll have a more in-depth post on this a little later on – but for now, you can check out the following link:

As well as this one:

Looking forward to telling you more about the latest developments.


Some Developments…

Updated: I’ve uploaded the latest article that appeared in The Star on 8/4/2013. To view it, click here: and scroll down to the bottom of the page.

I’m running a couple of stories on Eyewitness News / 702 Talk Radio tomorrow morning. Once they’ve aired, I’ll get them up on this website. I’m looking at the DNA tests being done in Bosnia and some legal interaction between prosecutors in SA and lawyers in Australia (which is very, very interesting). At the same time, there’s still a Supreme Court of Appeal hearing brewing relating to Carrington Laughton being denied bail. On Twitter, follow #ColdCase or @alexeliseev.

2013: The Year of the Trial

Welcome to 2013: the year we learn the truth about the amazing “Cold Case”.

With the trial set down for July, we still have a way to go. But I’m very excited about everything this year promises.

I had a very busy December and managed to get two full weeks of book-related work under my belt. I made an important acquaintance with someone who has a lot of knowledge about the case as it was back in 1999. I also stumbled across files full of documents which have helped put so many facts into their right order. For a journalist, this kind of discovery is like a tomb raider finding a treasure chest of ancient artifacts. I’ll be studying these documents in coming weeks…

There have also been some extremely interesting developments in Australia. I won’t give too much away, save to say that at least two crucial characters in this story live there now. I have made a wonderful ally there and things are finally moving.

I’ve managed to get a bit more writing done. Getting the first chapter right is always difficult. In the world of newspapers, journalists often agonize over the introduction for hours and then cruise through the body of an article. Having read a lot during this festive season, I feel inspired to push ahead.

To the people involved in this case and who may be reading this: The next few months are absolutely crucial. I urge you to get in touch with me (on or off the record) as soon as possible. After the trial may be too late, as I will be working flat-out on this project between now and then. The idea has always been to gather all the information beforehand and to publish after the trial. I’m dedicating the early part of this year to reaching out to all those who are caught up in this tale, regardless of how far away they may be (SA, UK, Australia or New Zealand). This is your chance to give your side of the story. Don’t let it slip by.

To find out how to contact me, click here.

The bones have been sent to Bosnia for DNA analysis and should be back early this year. The trial will continue regardless, but I can’t wait to see what the results are. I also believe the police’s investigation will be worth watching over the next few months. There may be some more twists and turns.

Whatever happens, this is going to be a fascinating year.

– January 2, 2013.

The Woman in the Photograph…

This is an update I wrote for Eyewitness News / The Star (published October 18, 2012). It’s the very latest on the case:

As six men appear in court today in connection with the Betty Ketani murder mystery – police have appealed for help in identifying a crucial witness.
Investigators hope to find the woman in this photograph, which is one of a handful of Polaroids mentioned in court during the bail applications.
Ketani was a mother-of-three who worked as a chef at Cranks restaurant in Rosebank. It’s believed she was kidnapped, murdered and buried in a shallow grave in 1999. The 13-year-old crime may well have remained unsolved were it not for the discovery of a confession letter hidden under a carpet at a house in Kenilworth, in southern Johannesburg.
The letter revealed that this and other photographs were allegedly taken in order to stage a murder that never happened. The woman who was meant to be killed is alive and is likely to be a witness during the trial. The hawks are now trying to find the woman used in the doctored images, which were handed over by the ex-wife of Carrington Laughton, the alleged author of the confession.
Yesterday, he and two other accused failed to have an earlier bail judgment overturned by a higher court. Laughton and two policemen brothers, Carel and David Ranger, argued they were not a threat to the investigation and that the state’s case against them is weak. Laughton also claimed the state was attaching too much weight to the letter, which he denies writing.
But South Gauteng High Court judge, Ramarumo Monama, dismissed these and other arguments, including that Ketani’s body is yet to be found and that the forensics in this case will delay the trial. Several bones have been found and are being sent overseas for DNA analysis.
Judge Monama said Laughton has already been accused of threatening one of his co-accused in jail, while the trio clearly have some kind of a relationship.
“In my opinion the (previous) court was right to have found them to be dangerous,” he ruled. “Taking all the factors, analysis and evaluation, I find no misdirection (by the magistrate) which entitles me to interfere.”
It’s not yet clear whether the three will appeal this ruling further, taking their fight to the Supreme Court of Appeal.
Meanwhile, today all six accused – including Conway Brown, Paul Toft-Nielsen and Dirk Reynecke – are due to return to the Johannesburg Magistrate’s Court.
The state is expected to ask for time to centralize all the charges, which stretch across police and court jurisdictions. The trial is not expected to begin until next year.

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