Minnie 'would never have killed himself'
Former colleagues say he was an excellent policeman who believed in the paedophilia case against apartheid ministers
The ex-policeman who co-wrote a book accusing apartheid ministers of paedophilia and who was found dead on Sunday evening, was in possession of photographic evidence, a former colleague has claimed.
The discovery of the body of Mark Minnie, a former Port Elizabeth policeman, on a farm on the outskirts of the town, has raised more questions than answers despite his death being treated as a suicide.
News of the death of Minnie – who was back in his former home town and staying with a friend – spread like wildfire and triggered a flurry of incredulous reactions from close acquaintances who said they did not believe he would take his own life and that he feared for his safety.
A friend and former police colleague, who declined to be named, told Times Select’s sister publication The Herald that he was meant to meet him over the weekend.
“He was a hard worker, but also played hard. He believed in this case and said that he had more info that would shock everyone,” he said.
“I do not believe he would have taken his own life. I am aware that he had photographic evidence that he kept with him and did not want to publish it.”
This information emerged as Tafelberg Publishers said in a statement late Tuesday evening that Minnie had continued investigating the matter in the past week. He had "successfully followed up several leads in Port Elizabeth during the past week and was determined to reveal further information", according to the brief statement. It added he was looking forward to an upcoming book festival and there had been no indication that he would harm himself.
Minnie’s death comes in the wake of the publication this month of his expose The Lost Boys of Bird Island – co-authored with Chris Steyn – which contained explosive details of an apartheid-era paedophile ring involving top National Party cabinet ministers who, it was claimed, molested underage boys on the Algoa Bay island.The firearm found lying next to Minnie’s body late on Monday on the smallholding where he was staying, is believed to belong to the owner, his friend and former police colleague Brent Barnes, while a suicide note was also discovered on the scene.
Minnie, 58, was found by Barnes shortly before 9pm near a bush at the back of the Theescombe Roses smallholding on Venter Avenue, where there are several dilapidated greenhouses.
Police spokesperson Captain Johan Rheeder said Minnie had arrived to stay with Barnes on Monday morning.
“He went there ... asking to stay for a few days, stating that he wanted to get out of the city for a short while to relax,” he said.
“During the course of the day the owner of the farm went out and continued to do his daily work. Later in the day, a farmworker heard a gunshot and reported it to the owner. However, he did not think anything of it.”
On Monday evening a female friend contacted Barnes, asking if they had seen Minnie because she was struggling to get hold of him. “The owner [Barnes] then went to go look for him. They searched the house and could not find him, which is when they went outside to search the surrounding area.”
He was found near a tree. A pistol lay near the body.
“At this stage it appears there is no foul play. However, investigations are ongoing. If foul play is evident, the case will change to murder. At this stage it remains an inquest case,” said Rheeder.
The firearm did not belong to Minnie, he said. “We are investigating how he came into possession of a firearm; ownership is subject to investigation.”
Police officials with inside knowledge of the case said the firearm was believed to be registered to Barnes.
Gunshot residue samples were taken from Minnie’s hands to determine whether it was suicide. Asked about a suicide note, Rheeder said a note had been found on the scene, but he declined to elaborate.
Minnie worked for the police’s narcotics bureau in Port Elizabeth in the 1980s.Mark Kahn, a former policeman turned businessman, said: “We were good friends back in the day, but then we all went our separate ways and we lost contact. I was shocked when I heard this morning that he was dead.”
Khan said he had spoken to Minnie on the phone about two months ago and he mentioned he was coming to Port Elizabeth.
“That was the first time I had spoken to him in about 15 or 20 years,” he said.
Kahn said when Minnie was in the police he was an urban legend. “He was a very good guy, a one of a kind, and a very good policeman.”
Marianne Thamm, who wrote the foreword of the book, posted a message on Facebook shortly after news of Minnie’s death broke. “Just heard the devastating news that Mark Minnie, one of the authors of the Lost Boys, has died ... of an apparent suicide.
“I worked with both Mark and Chris on the book and I am devastated by this. I know he was terrified for his life and that there are many who lurk in the shadows who would benefit from his death.
“My deepest condolences to his son and daughter – he was so proud of them – and his loved ones and Chris Steyn,” she said.