This is The Evidence Locker.
Our cases have been researched using open source and archive materials. It deals with true crimes and real people. Each episode is produced with the utmost respect to the victims, their families and loved ones.
In the scenic college town of Stellenbosch, South Africa, Wednesday March 16th 2005 was the same as any other early-autumn day. Leaves on giant oak trees lining the streets were changing colour and things were winding down with Easter being two weeks away.
Stellenbosch is a 40-minute drive from South Africa’s top tourist destination, Cape Town. It is one of the most idyllic places to go to university – a vibrant student town, grounded in Cape Dutch colonial history and surrounded by mountains and vineyards
The afternoon was peaceful and warm. Students rode their bicycles to lecture halls, tourist groups mulled their way around town, planning wine-tasting excursions to nearby vineyards.
That evening, the apartment of Inge Lotz was engulfed in silence. The only sound was the occasional ping of a text message being received on her cell phone. Later on, the text messages turned into countless concerned phone calls. It all went unanswered. Her loved ones knew: something was terribly wrong.
Inge’s boyfriend, Fred van der Vyver, was at his apartment, a 30- minute drive away, at 10pm on that Wednesday night. He was very concerned about the radio silence from Inge and called a friend who lived closer to Inge and asked him to check on her as Fred was already on his way.
When the friend, Christo Pretorius, pressed the buzzer at the security gate to Inge’s apartment building and there was no answer, he called out to a neighbour of Inge’s, standing on his balcony, to open the gate.
With trepidation Christo opened the door which was closed but unlocked. He went inside, calling her name. From the front door he could see into the living room. On her couch, Inge was still seated upright. There was a copious amount of blood covering her head and face and she was almost unrecognisable. At first he thought she had committed suicide. But Inge had been bludgeoned to death.
Christo alerted the police and what followed was one of the most controversial cases in South African Police history.
Inge Lotz was the daughter of Jan and Juanita Lotz. Jan was an esteemed Professor of Radiology at the University of Stellenbosch and Juanita a Physiotherapist. They tried for ten years to fall pregnant and when Inge was eventually born, Juanita stopped working to care for their baby. Little Inge was long awaited and greatly adored. For proud parents Jan and Juanita, having Inge was more than enough, they didn’t feel the need to have more kids. They felt blessed and thankful to have such a beautiful little girl.
Inge excelled at school, making it to the top four academic achievers in her home province, Western Cape. She was musically talented and played various instruments. When she was selected to sing in a prestigious children’s choir, she jumped at the opportunity. Always supportive, both her parents joined the choir on a tour of Europe.
Those were happy times, Inge’s teenage years. The family home in the affluent neighbourhood of Welgemoed was adorned with photos of the beautiful Inge. She enjoyed spending time with her parents at their beach house, a four-hour drive east from their home. Then there was the trip to Spain, France and Euro Disney… The three of them were close and supportive and always loved each other’s company.
When the time came for Inge to go to university, she decided to study Mathematics. As expected, she was a very strong student. After completing her bachelor’s degree she continued to study and in 2005, Inge was well on her way to acing her Master’s degree in Mathematical Statistics.
The future seemed bright for this post-grad student. She was bright and gorgeous, had the world at her feet. She had many admirers that would swoon when she gave a warm, dimpled smile. But there was also more to Inge: she was a devoted Christian who lived her life with virtue, kindness and love and would always be there if any of her friends needed her.
In 2004 Inge met a young actuarial science student, called Fred Van Der Vyver. Fred grew up on a lucrative tomato and cattle farm in the Eastern Cape and attended the prestigious boarding school Grey College. He wasn’t only strong academically, but was quite the sportsman too, playing rugby, cricket and tennis. Tall, dark and handsome, Fred caught Inge’s attention. The two started dating and soon became very close. Inge’s parents not only approved of the relationship, they loved Fred and took him in as part of their family.
After completing his post graduate degree, Fred was still taking some courses at the university while starting his career. He had a promising job, working as an actuary at Old Mutual, a prominent South African investment and insurance company. He moved into an apartment close to his work with a guy called Marius Botha. Marius had also studied with Fred and Inge.
At the end of February 2005 Inge moved into her own apartment in a security complex called Shiraz on the outskirts of Stellenbosch. It was a new development with some units still under construction. The apartment was a short, 30-minute drive from her parents’ home in Welgemoed, so she still spent a lot of time at home.
Inge was very close to her mom. Every morning she would give her mom a missed call – a signal to let her know she was safe. With the high crime rate in South Africa, it is common practice for loved ones to check in and let someone know they are safe.
Usually, after receiving the daily missed call from Inge, her mom would call her back and they would discuss the day. Every weekend, Inge would go home, always remembering to take a bunch of flowers for her mom and the weekend of March 11th 2005 was no exception. Inge arrived home on the Friday afternoon and went for a swim in the pool at her family home, with her dog jumping in to join her.
After the swim, Inge changed into shorts and a tank top and had a cup of tea with her mom. Her mom noticed some bruises on Inge and asked her about it. Inge shrugged it off, but went to her room and changed into jeans and a sleeved T-Shirt, so as to conceal the bruises.
On Sunday morning Fred called and asked if he could come around to see Inge, but for some or other reason, she didn’t seem too keen. In the afternoon, her mother remembers, he showed up anyway.
Inge and Fred were in her room as Inge was packing clothes for the week. She asked her mom about the weather forecast. Her mom said it would be very hot and suggested Inge packed a spaghetti strap, short sundress to which Fred said:
“You are only to wear this dress when I’m with you.”
Inge and her mom laughed, Fred didn’t.
Religion played a huge role in Fred and Inge’s relationship. Inge was brought up to be a devoted Christian and still attended her family church with her parents. Fred was a member of the far more conservative His People Church. This church is opposed to any physical contact in pre-marital relationships, as it might lead to sex. Fred and Inge did not have an intimate relationship and he believed that she was still a virgin.
When Juanita Lots said goodbye to her Inge that Sunday night, she would never have thought that this would be the last time she would ever see her daughter alive. When she greeted Fred, she said the same thing as she always said to him:
“Take good care of her, she’s all we have.”
On Tuesday night, Fred went to Inge’s apartment with the intention to stay the night. He had lecture to attend early the next morning and Inge’s place was closer to campus than his place. Fred’s family received news that night that his brother Dawie’s wife was pregnant. When Fred called to congratulate his brother, the two had a disagreement.
This wasn’t unusual. Friction between Fred and his two older brothers started in December of the year before at his brother, Dawie’s, wedding. Fred reprimanded their other brother, Alfons, for having had too much to drink and being too rowdy. Both brothers felt that Fred was judgemental and out of line – it was a celebration and no one else took offence to the inebriated brother-of-the-groom.
In the course of his evening with Inge, Fred was grumpy about his phone call to Dawie, but he didn’t want to discuss it with her. He had a shower and went to sleep on the sofa while Inge was still working on her computer.
Wednesday morning, March 16th, Inge and Fred had breakfast together and a huge argument broke out. Inge felt that something was up with Fred, he was still grumpy and irritable. She asked him if it had anything to do with their relationship. At first, Fred didn’t want to talk about it, but eventually admitted that it was the argument with his older brother that had unsettled him. Inge didn’t buy it, and started crying, asking him if he still loved her. Fred assured her that he did, but felt that she was the one that was uncertain about their relationship.
Inge said that she still loved him. Fred suggested she wrote down her feelings in a letter or an email, so they could discuss it later. He had to leave to attend a lecture. At 07:45 Fred left and things were still quite murky between them.
While he was at his lecture Inge wrote Fred a two-page letter. At 09:40, she sent him a text message, saying she was on her way to campus to give him the letter.
A tiling contractor knocked on Inge’s door around this time, to arrange the repair of two broken tiles on her balcony, but Inge had to go and asked if he could return later.
When Fred came out of his lecture hall on campus at 10am, Inge was waiting for him. She gave him the letter in an envelope and the two parted ways.
Fred went to a furniture store in Stellenbosch to collect a kitchen cupboard for his friend, Jean Minnaar. He loaded the cupboard into the back of his small pick-up before leaving for work. Just after 11am he arrived at his work at Mutualpark in Pinelands, about 29 miles or 47km from Stellenbosch.
Back in Stellenbosch, Inge attended a lecture and met her childhood friend, Wimpie Boshoff, for an early lunch. In her conversation with Wimpie, she told him that she felt it was over between her and Fred after, what she described as “a hell-of-a fight” in the morning. Fred suggested she thought about their relationship and whether it should continue or not. Wimpie would be the last of Inge’s friends to see her alive.
Throughout the day, text messages were flying to and fro between Inge and Fred.
Just after 1pm, Fred sent Inge a text message, using his work computer, logged in to a cell phone provider’s online platform.
“Hey, I’m glad your lecture went well and I hope it was nice catching up with Wimpie too? Over lunch I read your letter. Thank you very much. I will look at it again tonight when I have more time. I appreciate it. I hope you have a great afternoon too. Love you my angel. F xx ”
The last text Fred received from Inge was at 13:36. It read:
“Had a great time with Wimpie! Tiling done! Miss you already… xx”
Then Fred went into a meeting with at least six other people for the remainder of the afternoon.
Shortly after this text, Inge informed her mom that the tiling on her balcony was complete. Her mom wanted to come around and have a look to see if the job was properly done, but Inge told her it wasn’t necessary.
At 14:55, a receipt shows that Inge bought herself a burger from at burger chain called Steers and then went to an adjacent grocery store to buy a magazine and a soda. Straight from there, she walked to a DVD-rental store, called ‘The Video Place’ from where she rented The Stepford Wives at 3:07.
If Inge went straight home after renting the DVD, she would have been at her apartment before 3:30. It was only a three mile or five kilometre drive.
No-one had any reciprocal contact with Inge after this time.
At work, Fred logged back into his computer at 5:15pm, read some emails and left the office at 18:07. He drove to his own apartment, which he shared with flatmate, Marius Botha. Marius was home and the two watched TV and had dinner. After dinner, Fred left with Marius to drop off the kitchen cupboard he had collected for Jean Minnaar from a furniture store that morning.
He stayed for a cup of coffee with his friend’s flatmate, who, incidentally was Inge’s ex-boyfriend, Braam Kruger.
Shortly after 8pm, Fred sent Inge a text message, saying that he loved her and that he’d call her a bit later for a chat and to hear her voice. She did not respond to his text message. He tried to call her at 9pm and again three minutes later, but she didn’t answer.
Fred felt that this was unusual, but considering their fight that morning and the way things were between them, he assumed she didn’t want to talk to him. Still, he felt uneasy and sent another text around 9:40pm, asking if she was ok and saying that she could give him a missed call and he’d call her back.
Twenty minutes later, at 10pm, Fred sent a polite text to Inge’s mom, which said that he couldn’t get a hold of Inge. He asked if her mom had heard from her as he was starting to feel uneasy. Juanita Lotz replied that she hadn’t heard from her daughter.
At 10:08 Fred tried to call Inge once more, again his call went unanswered. His flatmate, Marius, who was aware of the situation, suggested they call one of his friends, Christo Pretorius who lived closer to Inge, to investigate.
Around 10:30 Fred left his place to go to the Lotz family home. He said that he would pick up spare keys to Inge’s complex, so he could do a welfare check on her. The locks at Inge’s apartment were changed the previous day, along with all the other apartments in the complex – it was to rectify a mistake made by a subcontractor. So, on Wednesday night, neither Fred nor Inge’s parents had keys to get into Inge’s apartment, but if Fred could at least gain access into the complex, he would take it from there.
At 10:35 Christo Pretorius found Inge Lotz’ bludgeoned body in her apartment. He immediately alerted law enforcement and also called Fred’s flatmate, Marius to break the news. Around the same time, Fred arrived at the Lotz home in Welgemoed. After collecting the remote control for Inge’s gate, he started to make his way to Stellenbosch.
As he was driving he called Marius to hear if there was any news from Christo. Marius was already in his car on his way to the Lotz family home but didn’t want to break the bad news over the phone and ended the call.
A couple of minutes later, Fred called Marius again and pushed him for an answer. He said he could sense something was wrong and that Marius shouldn’t lie to him. Marius asked Fred to meet him at Inge’s parents’ home.
After this, Fred called his own mother and said he was on his way to Stellenbosch as something was terribly wrong with Inge. He asked his parents to pray as he didn’t know what was going on.
When Marius arrived at the Lotz home, Inge’s mom was in the driveway and Fred was sitting in his car, which was parked on the side of the road.
Fred’s actions at this moment would become a great source of contention. In Fred’s initial statement to police, he said that he had turned around at an intersection near Stellenbosch, but later changed his statement and claimed that he had turned around at an intersection not far from the Lotz home.
He also said that he had gone into the Lotz home to wait for Marius and prayed with Inge’s mom. But Inge’s mom’s version of events was quite different to Fred’s. According to Juanita Lotz, she tried to call Fred at 10:50, but he didn’t answer. She then went outside to wait for Marius and saw Fred sitting in his car, eyes closed. Before she could ask him what he was doing, Marius arrived and gave the news that no parent ever wants to hear: Inge had died.
Varying accounts of how Fred and Juanita Lotz were told about Inge’s death was just the beginning of a long journey in search of the real truth about the events of March 16th 2005.
Inge was always well presented and tidy, punctual and precise. But the day she died, everything came undone. From the various investigations, both by police and private investigators; to witness accounts – the hunt of her murderer that followed Inge’s death brought with it unimaginable pain, frustration and what seems to be endless contradiction.
In the days after Inge’s death, Fred had moved into the Lotz home, sleeping on the floor in Inge’s bedroom, lighting candles like some kind of shrine. Family from across the country went to Stellenbosch, to support both the Lotz and Van Der Vyver families.
Inge was related to South African swimming champion, Olympian Ryk Neethling. In a public statement to South African national newspaper, The Sunday Times, Neethling said that his cousin, Inge was “an amazing girl with tremendous potential and a lot of love”.
The family planned Inge’s funeral for March 22nd with assistance from their church. The night before the sad event, Juanita Lotz sent a text message to Fred, which read:
"Thank you for all your love, Fred… Our hearts have been broken by our angel child … love you, sleep well.”
As could be expected, Inge Lotz’ funeral was extremely emotional. Her childhood friend, Wimpie Boshoff gave a 5 minute eulogy, which paints a picture of Inge in God’s kingdom, being God’s statistician and singing in a choir of angels.
Fred also had a chance to speak and started by quoting a poem on behalf of Inge’s parents. Then he proceeded to read from a letter he had written to Inge. He described Inge as a petit girl with integrity and to Fred, as a child of God, Inge embodied Jesus to him. She had brought Fred closer to Jesus.
“She did what she had to do – it was enough.”
The pallbearers were all the significant young men in Inge’s life: Fred van der Vyver, best friend Wimpie Boshoff, ex-boyfriend Braam Kruger, and friends Marius Botha, Jean Minnaar, and Daniel Gryffenberg.
After the funeral, Fred was asked to move out of Inge’s childhood room and out of the Lotz home. In the days leading up to the funeral, some of Fred’s actions did not sit well with Inge’s parents. On the night of Inge’s death, Fred told Juanita Lotz about the letter Inge had given him earlier that day. When Juanita asked to see it, he gave another, shorter note instead, which we will discuss shortly. Also, when it was time to formally identify Inge’s body, her parents could not face the grim task and asked Juanita’s brother (Inge’s uncle and god-parent) Ian Mybugh to do it. When he was on his way to the morgue, he received a phone call from Fred, instructing him to turn around as Fred had already asked two of the pastors from his church to identify the body. Ian ignored the call and after a short confrontation at the morgue the two pastors left. When Inge’s dad, Jan Lotz heard about this he was furious. Fred had overstepped a very sacred boundary and the Lotz family was starting to lose their taste for him.
The issue with the two letters also made them feel uneasy: why would Fred hide the letter Inge gave to him?
The letter that Fred showed Inge’s parents was a short note that read:
“I just wanted to say how much I appreciate how special you are! Thank you for your love, support and kind heart and that you are ALWAYS prepared to listen to my little problems. I love you VERY, VERY, VERY much! Good luck with your day and your week and know that Jesus is always with you. Love and kisses, Inge.”
The Lotz’s immediately felt that this note was not written that morning. Why would she say ‘good luck with your week’ and not ‘good luck with the rest of your week’ on a Wednesday? Fred later admitted that the note was in the envelope with another longer letter. He had kept the longer letter from Inge’s parents because there was sensitive information about the Lotz family and he didn’t want to upset them. He also felt that the long letter was a personal letter between boyfriend and girlfriend and didn’t concern her parents.
So, let’s look at the content of the two page letter Inge wrote on the morning of her death and had given to Fred, reportedly the last time he saw her alive: in the long letter, she alludes to their fight that morning and that it got out of control. It is clear that Fred had questioned Inge’s commitment to their relationship. She promises that, ‘by the grace of God’ she would always be faithful to him, and that she would always be honest with him. She wrote that she would never cheat on him, then crossed that sentence out. The edited version reads: she would never do anything behind his back.
Which brings the question – was there a fidelity issue? Did Fred think Inge was cheating on him? Inge had many male friends, her closest friends thought that most of them were in love with her. Even Fred’s own flatmate, Marius, had feelings for her and had once said that he didn’t think Inge and Fred were good for each other. He had written her love letters and poems. In fact, it would later come out that Fred was jealous when he heard that Marius and Inge had kissed.
A couple of weeks before her death, Inge met a male friend called Rudi for lunch. After lunch, she sent a text saying:
“Hi Rudi. Thanks for the coffee. I enjoyed it a lot. Love, Inge.”
The message had inadvertently been sent to Fred and Inge hastily followed up with another text to Fred:
“I told Rudi about you today so it was pure friendship love.”
In her letter, Inge tried to appease Fred and it’s clear she wanted to patch things up. In fact, she mentioned that she would like spend the rest of her life with him. He had enriched her life in so many ways and time spent with him was greatest gift anyone can dream of.
She also asked him to show her how to be the perfect girlfriend for him, although she wasn’t hopeful of ever being as perfect as him.
She makes a reference to the upcoming Easter Weekend and that she feared how he would perceive her father’s drinking. She said:
“I don’t want to lose you in such a way, and I don’t want you to see that side of my family.”
After Fred’s blow up with his brother about drinking too much, it is understandable that Inge was apprehensive about alcohol use in Fred’s presence. But remember, the Cape region is wine country. Some of the world’s best wines are served with lunch and/or dinner in most households.
When the letter became public, Jan Lotz commented:
“It is not like the Inge we knew. She was afraid. Her writing reflects total submission… I suggest you ask Fred if he has ever seen me drink too much. My child was raised in a house where red wine is considered part of our culture. There was seldom any other type of alcohol in the house. On the morning of her death, it is suddenly an issue? Whose standards are these? Standards she was raised with or standards of His People Church?”
The fact that Fred initially kept this letter from Inge’s parents raised suspicion. And then his admission that she had given both the letter and the note to him in the same envelope… It didn’t make sense. The longer letter was written on A4 paper, like sheets from a legal pad. The shorter one was written on watermarked stationary. The handwriting also differs quite a bit, which shows she was in different emotional states when writing the two letters. Handwriting experts believe it is not plausible that Inge wrote both letters at the same time, on the morning of her death. In fact, the handwriting is so different, one can wonder if Inge had written both at all…
The community was outraged about Inge’s brutal murder and there was a lot of pressure on police to solve the case. But incompetence made Inge Lotz’s murder one of the most botched investigations by South African police in recent times. Police have been accused of losing, compromising and even fabricating evidence.
On the night of Inge’s murder, there were at least seven officers in her apartment, trampling all over the scene. When forensic technicians arrived they secured what they could, but this was only the beginning of the red tape controversies that ensued.
The crime scene showed no indication of a struggle. Inge was found still sitting up, legs half-crossed and a magazine on her lap, reading an article featuring one of her friends, Sarette van der Heever, who was a contestant in a cover girl competition. Inge didn’t see her attack coming… She received multiple blows to her head and one to her hand, showing she tried to defend herself. She also had stab wounds in her neck an chest, made by a sharper object, like a knife. The stab wounds were inflicted after she had died. In total, Inge Lotz had 47 wounds on her small, defenceless body.
There were no signs of forced entry and nothing was stolen. The keys to her Volkswagen and cell phone were on the kitchen benchtop – this was not a burglary. The only missing items were a kitchen knife and the remote control for the gate of the security complex (it was needed to enter and exit the complex).
Police felt from the start that the crime was committed by someone Inge knew well. The only way anyone could have been inside her apartment is if she had let them in. She was also dressed in pyjama shorts and a tank-top and being rather conservative, she would not have been comfortable in front of anyone dressed like this. It must have been someone she felt at ease with. And the explosive violence of the murder was personal. It was seen as a crime of passion by someone who had personal anger towards Inge in that moment.
After the brutal attack, the perpetrator went to the bathroom and cleaned up. A bloodied towel was found on the bathroom floor, next to two blood marks. The marks looked like it could be a partial shoe print, but there were no other bloody shoe prints anywhere else in the apartment or leading away from it.
On the coffee table in front of the couch, was the generic DVD cover from the video rental shop. Police lifted some fingerprints, most of which remained unidentified – not strange since it was a generic cover which had been handled by people working in the DVD store and other customers who had rented DVD’s. But at least it was a starting point.
Inge’s autopsy confirmed that she wasn’t raped. An examination of her head wounds concluded that the possible murder weapon was a blunt object like a hammer.
Police canvassed the neighbourhood and looked into recent break-ins in the area. In the six months leading up to the murder, there were a total of seven other break-ins (remember, South Africa has a high crime rate, so this isn’t unusual). But there was a pattern of the other break-ins: no-one was ever home. Objective was always to take electronics or other valuables. In Inge’s flat, her cell phone, a laptop computer and television set were untouched, nothing was taken.
About two weeks after the attack, a seventeen-year-old, known criminal and meth addict called Werner Carolus, confessed that he had killed Inge. Then he changed his statement and said he had witnessed the murder, committed by a friend of his. Carolus claimed that they had killed ‘a young woman who regularly bought drugs from them on a Saturday night. He stood outside to keep watch and then saw his friends fleeing the scene. He then looked through the window and saw Inge on the couch, blood dripping from her arm.
This account didn’t make any sense: firstly, Inge was not a drug user. She was also killed on a Wednesday, not a Saturday. And at the crime scene, bloody as it was, there was no blood dripping from Inge’s arm.
When police took Carolus to Inge’s neighbourhood, he pointed out Shiraz, the complex where Inge lived, but could not say where in the complex her apartment was. Eventually Carolus retracted his confession, saying it was all fabricated.
Carolus’ fingerprints matched burglaries committed in Stellenbosch on the 12th and 20th of March (a couple of days before and after Inge’s murder). He was convicted and sent to prison for 11 years.
At this time, police had excluded Marius Botha, Fred van der Vyver’s flatmate as a suspect – they were looking at the suspect as someone with a motive to kill Inge: a jealous man, with unrequited love for Inge.
Then the results came back from fingerprint analysis. On the generic DVD cover on Inge’s coffee table, there was a print matching that of her boyfriend, Fred van der Vyver, which placed him at the scene AFTER she had taken the DVD out at 3:07pm, when Fred claimed to be at work.
A search of his apartment yielded a sport shoe, which fitted the blood mark on the bathroom floor at the crime scene. The Hi-Tec brand sneakers had recently been washed. When Fred was asked if he owned a hammer, he remembered an ornamental hammer-slash-bottle-opener given to him for Christmas by Inge’s parents. The silver handle was engraved with the words ‘Fred 2004’. The hammer was in Fred’s car behind the driver’s seat. It had shifted underneath his seat and he claimed that he had forgotten about it.
In June, two months after Inge Lotz was murdered, police were gearing up to arrest her boyfriend Fred van der Vyver for her murder. On the advice of his lawyers, Fred went to the Cloetesville Police Station and gave himself up, still professing his innocence. He requested to take a polygraph, which he passed – it showed no signs of deception on his part.
Prosecution felt however that their case against Fred was strong enough. They were gathering evidence and witness statements to present at trial. From the onset, it looked like they had their guy.
The last witnesses that saw Inge were construction workers who were building inside Shiraz complex. However, as prosecution was preparing statements for trial, they learnt that the construction company Quick Con Construction had been liquidated and the temporary employees who had worked illegally had returned to Mozambique and could not be tracked down. That includes the person who tiled the balcony at Inge’s apartment on the day of her death, possibly the very last person to have seen Inge.
Two years after Inge’s murder, the trial against Fred van der Vyver kicked off in the Cape High Court. The South African judicial system does not include trial by jury. The case is presented and defended in court and presided over by one judge.
To honour Inge, her mom Juanita Lotz, wore bright coloured scarves whenever she attended court.
The trial was to become a nine month battle, with stories of incest, cannibalism, drug use and infidelity making the case absurd at times. Many international expert witnesses were called to testify. Judge Deon van Zyl had quite a task to sift through all the information which were at times proven, disproven, contradicted and even fabricated.
The first piece of evidence was the fingerprint on the DVD cover, which placed Fred at the crime scene after 3pm. An American fingerprint expert examined the evidence and concluded that the print in question came from a curved surface like a glass, not a flat surface like a DVD case. That means that evidence was labelled wrongly. In police documentation the fingerprint was labelled 10:15am the following day, thus not marked at the scene when it was taken late on the Wednesday night of March 16th.
Having Fred’s fingerprints on a glass would be normal, as he spent a lot of time at the flat, also the night before the murder.
To add insult to injury, police returned the DVD cover to The Video Place where Inge had rented the movie from, sacrificing a crucial, arguably the most crucial piece of evidence in this case.
The media rightfully so, crucified police. In the struggle to comprehend why so many mistakes were made, accusations of a cover-up was made. But why would police lie or plant evidence? There was no way they could have known about the story of Fred’s fight with Inge in the morning and that he would turn out to be a suspect. Fred’s defence team had to accept that there was no cover-up, but that inexperienced officers were sent to the scene, officers that should never have been tasked with solving such a brutal murder.
There is also the fact that Fred had an iron clad alibi for the afternoon of Inge’s murder. He was at work from 11am till 6pm, at Mutualpark in Pinelands. This was 29 miles or 47 kilometres away from Inge’s apartment. He did not leave the building during the day. CCTV footage captured when he arrived and when he left through the turnstiles in the main lobby. He was in a meeting with at least seven colleagues for the whole afternoon, seated next to his boss. All of those colleagues gave sworn statements, confirming that he was there.
However, there is no electronic evidence placing him at work for the 105 minutes between 15:29 and 17:14. That means he could have left the building unseen, walked five minutes to his car, driven the 40-minutes, spent 15 minutes bludgeoning his girlfriend and cleaning up before making the 40-minute journey back to work and walking the five minutes back from his car into the building without being seen by security cameras. All of this wearing the same clothes and acting normal. Judge Van Zyl did not think this was plausible or even possible.
Fred’s behaviour on the evening of Inge’s death was also put under a microscope. Cell phone records indicate that after he had collected the remote control from Inge’s mom in Welgemoed, he turned the car around and parked down the street from the Lotz home. Conflicting statements about exactly where he had turned around made it look like he was trying to hide something.
Fred’s accusers felt that he already knew Inge was dead and that he never intended to drive to Stellenbosch to go and check on her. He waited near her parents’ home as events HE set in motion unfolded.
Fred’s supporters would argue that he was in shock, and sensed something tragic had happened. Instead of speeding to Inge’s apartment to come to her aid, he was paralysed with fear and uncertainty.
As for the murder weapon… Inge’s DNA was not found on Fred’s ornamental hammer. The shape of the head wounds also did not quite fit the shape of the hammer. Defence argued that the wounds were larger than the shape of the ornamental hammer and that the victim could have possibly been pistol whipped.
Then there was the shoeprint evidence. South African police investigator Superintendent Bruce Bartholomew stated to the court that Ex-FBI Bill Bodziak, who literally wrote the textbook on blood evidence and shoe prints and testified in the OJ Simpson case in the 1990s, confirmed that the blood mark in the bathroom was made by Fred’s shoe. When Bodziak heard about this, he was furious. Bartholomew had lied about Bodziak’s findings. So Bill Bodziak was called as an expert witness by Fred’s defence team. He testified that the blood mark in the bathroom was definitely not Fred’s shoe print, in fact, was not a shoe print at all – it was a blood transfer mark from a bloodied object being placed on the floor.
During his final comments, judge Deon van Zyl said he had never experienced such a lack of discipline of police at a crime scene. He was sympathetic to Inge’s loved ones, stating it is normal in a case where a beautiful, gifted young lady is murdered for the community to want someone to be held accountable. However, the court could only come to a conclusion based on the evidence presented.
In November 2007 Fred van der Vyver was acquitted of murder of Inge Lotz in the Cape High Court. He can never be charged with Inge’s murder again.
Years after the trial, judge Van Zyl said he felt prosecution were focussed only on the suspect and not on the case and the evidence. They were under prepared for the onslaught delivered by Fred’s defence team.
Private investigators hired by the Van Der Vyver family, pointed a finger to Inge’s uncle, Ian Myburgh (Juanita’s brother) – they believed he had killed Inge. This was based on Myburgh’s ex who said that he had phoned her at 9pm on the night of the murder to tell her that Inge had died, when Inge’s body was only discovered later. Cell phone records refuted this, showing the call was made after midnight. It also shows that Myburgh was in Pretoria, over 900 miles or 1500 kilometres away on the night in question.
According to Fred’s defence team, Ian Myburgh’s ex also stated that she had once walked in on Myburgh and Inge and found them in a ‘compromising position’. When Myburgh’s ex heard about this, she took a sworn statement, saying she had never said anything of the sort and that the private investigators were using her name to further their lies.
Private Investigators also looked up Werner Carolus, the meth addict who said he had witnessed Inge’s death. Carolus recanted all his previous statements and said he had witnessed a Caucasian male bite a piece of flesh from Inge’s chest. He had lied about events before, saying his friends had killed Inge because he wanted to get back at them for a drug deal gone bad. Also he would rather be in prison than face the crazed cannibal which he saw killing Inge. But Carolus isn’t the most credible witness and his statements did not carry any weight.
Fred’s defence attorney used a shopping list made by Inge early in December before her death to claim that she had had an abortion. On the list were mundane items like cheese, anti-histamine, shampoo and then the abbreviation “D&C”, which they argued was code for “dilation and curettage” – the process of abortion. In all fairness, it was probably the initials for Dawie and Carla – Fred’s brother and fiancée, whose wedding she attended later in December. Their initials were to remind her to buy a wedding gift. The next entry on the list: “silver shoes”, which she wore to the wedding, indicates that the wedding was on her mind.
As in any high profile crime, the rumour mill was churning. There was talk that many of Fred and Inge’s male friends were part of a ‘secret’ group of friends who called themselves ‘The Wolverines’. The group consisted only of men who flirted with each other, using explicit sexual references and soft gay pornography. There was no evidence that Fred was part of this group, but he did know all the members well.
A rumour started doing the rounds that Inge wasn’t Jan’s daughter, but that Juanita’s brother, Ian Myburgh, was her father. These rumours were unfounded and ridiculous and Inge’s family felt like facing all of these untruths was like having to bury Inge twice.
The Lotz family couldn’t accept the court’s decision to acquit Fred and brought a civil case against Fred van der Vyver, suing him for eight million Rand (or 650,000 Dollar) in damages. But the strain of legal procedures and stress of dealing with his daughter’s death were taking its toll on Jan Lotz’s health and well-being and together with his wife Juanita, decided to withdraw the lawsuit in May 2009.
In 2010 Fred Van der Vyver won a 46 million Rand (or close to four million Dollar) civil case against the South African Police Service for what he claimed to be malicious prosecution. In 2013 this ruling was overturned in the Supreme Court of Appeal after appeal by the police. Fred subsequently took the matter to the Constitutional Court, which declined his request to take the matter any further.
In March 2012, interest in the case flared up again, when Inge’s parents offered a one million Rand (or about 80,000 Dollar) reward for information that could lead to solving her murder.
Jan Lotz asked a retired professor of physics, Kobus Visser, to re-examine the controversial fingerprint in July of 2013. He used conic section, a mathematical calculation, to determine whether the fingerprint was lifted off a flat or a curved surface. The conclusion was that it was lifted from a flat surface and not a curved one as experts testified. That would mean that Fred had touched the DVD cover after Inge had rented it, placing him at the scene of the crime. Now Jan Lotz wants answers.
Various books have been written about Inge’s murder: Fruit of a Poisoned Tree by Anthony Altbekker, explores the fact that police honed in on Fred too early in the investigation and compromised evidence to suit their theory. Bloody Lies and Bloody Lies 2 were written by the Mollet brothers, Calvin and Thomas, who took a personal interest in the case and re-evaluated all forensic evidence, concludes that there could only have been one perpetrator and that is Fred van der Vyver. Senior Advocate Barry Pienaar, who was on Fred van der Vyver’s defence team also wrote a book called Freddie Boy – The Untold Story, a biography of the accused, centred around the trial.
The views of these four books are as diverse as the public opinion on the case. The million Dollar question is: if Fred didn’t kill Inge, then who did? The investigation is officially closed, but private investigators and forensic experts who were involved in the case have not closed the book yet. Hopefully one day, Jan and Juanita Lotz will know the truth about what happened to their beautiful daughter, Inge on that fateful autumn day.
Fred van der Vyver completed his studies and works as an actuarial manager, still at Old Mutual. He has married and is an active member of his church. He is no longer in the media spotlight.
Inge’s dad, professor Jan Lotz said in a recent interview:
“People tell me I should close the book and get on with my life, but how can I close a book I don’t understand?”
For so many people, the killing of Inge Lotz will remain an open wound until someone is brought to justice.
This was The Evidence Locker. Thanks for listening!
If you’d like to read up more about this case, have a look at the resources used for this episode in the show notes.
©2018 Evidence Locker Podcast
All rights reserved. This podcast or any portion thereof may not be reproduced or used in any manner whatsoever without the express written permission of the publisher except for the use of brief quotations in a podcast review.