Bay fugitive leaves wife to face music

Hendrick Mphande

THE man who police have spent the past two years investigating for the murder of Jeffreys Bay businessman Claus Schroeder has slipped through their fingers a day before he was due to be charged with fraud and murder.

The Hawks in Port Elizabeth have launched a manhunt for German Jens Leunberg, 34, after he went on the run on Tuesday despite promises to hand himself over to authorities before his scheduled court appearance yesterday morning.

Leunberg’s wife, Kristina Adler, 36, was arrested at the couple’s Thornhill farm on Monday night. However, Leunberg evaded arrest because he was out of town on a business trip.

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Police have asked members of the public to be on the lookout for Leunberg, who they believe is driving a red Toyota Tazz with the registration number BNB 217 EC. They believe he is still in the country as he does not have a passport.

Yesterday, Adler – who was born in Belarus, but is a German citizen – appeared briefly in the Port Elizabeth Magistrate’s Court and was remanded to July 28 for a formal bail application.

Leunberg’s lawyer, Alwyn Griebenow, said Leunberg was supposed to have come to his Cape Road offices on Tuesday. “Obviously, it did not happen that way. His cellphone was off.”

Schroeder disappeared on August 14 2009. His body has never been found. The German couple allegedly conned Schroeder and his wife, Tanja, into believing they had R62-million to buy their farm in Thornhill. They allegedly forged bank documents showing the money was in their account.

The police say Schroeder became suspicious, went to the farm to confront them and was killed.

Adler is also facing fraud charges relating to her bid in 2008 to get the Department of Home Affairs to convert her visitor’s permit to a temporary business permit.

She had told them she would run Thornhill Ubuntu Tourism Activities, and the condition was that she needed to have R2.5-million to invest in the business.

The state alleges she later falsified an online printout of a bank statement with Deutchse Bank indicating she had R4.2-million in the account. The permit was granted.

On the same day, the state alleges, Leunberg applied to the department to have his visitor’s permit changed to an “accompanying spouse for a temporary business permit”. The department says the information was misleading.

The couple came to South Africa in 2007, allegedly leaving a trail of crime behind them. They were allegedly on the run from several arrest warrants in Germany.

Tanja Schroeder said yesterday she welcomed Adler’s arrest, but was upset that Leunberg was still on the run.

“I feel very upset that Jens is on the run. I think it shows he is guilty. All the time Jens and Krissi were under the impression nobody could harm them as we have not found my husband’s body yet. However, now the police have enough evidence to put them both in jail for a long time.”

She said when she first heard that Leunberg wanted to hand himself over to the police she had not believed it.

“I had heard so many lies from him in the days after my husband’s disappearance. Too many lies. Even the rumour that Claus was collected by somebody with a black VW Citi Golf was told by Jens,” Tanja said.

“Nobody on the farm and surrounding the farm saw Claus ever leave the farm again.

“They all saw him arriving at the farm, but nobody saw him leaving.

“I really hope they will find Jens so that justice will take place. I hope he will tell us what happened and where he put my husband’s body. It would bring closure to me and my two sons.”

Daniel, 23, is a student at Rhodes University, and Tobias, 17, a Grade 11 pupil at Woodridge College.

She praised the National Prosecuting Authority (NPA) and police in Port Elizabeth for their hard work.

NPA spokesperson Tsepo Ndwalaza said the investigation had been lengthy and had necessitated the investigating team travelling to Germany and Switzerland in May to obtain certain evidence.

“This [the arrest of Adler] was the result of a successful application for the mutual legal assistance [from Germany and Switzerland]. Once the information was obtained, warrants were obtained for the arrest of both suspects,” he said.

Schroeder, who manufactured and revamped motor homes, went missing two years ago after he told Tanja he was on his way to pick up a friend in Thornhill and would then proceed to a meeting in Port Elizabeth.

Anyone with information on the whereabouts of Leunberg can contact Warrant Officer Danie Siebert on 072-7204563 or Warrant Officer Morne Botha on 082-6975934.

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