Nine years after a man’s disappearance and the gruesome discovery four years later of his body buried in a flower-box of a Bluewater Bay home, his family’s hopes for justice have been boosted by a huge breakthrough.
The long-standing murder mystery took a dramatic turn when a woman was arrested five years after the body of Wynand Hibbers was found in the brick flower-box in the backyard of the Bluewater Bay house, while a second suspect is expected to hand himself over to police and appear in court on Monday.
Nadine Bakkes, 31, was arrested on Thursday in connection with Hibbers’s death and also faces multiple fraud charges.
Nine years after Hibbers disappeared on his 42nd birthday, his family is elated that someone has finally been arrested for his murder.
In a telephone interview with Weekend Post yesterday, the victim’s eldest brother, Philip Hibbers, 57, of Cape Town, said it was a strange feeling to hear that someone had been arrested for his brother’s death, nine years after his disappearance.
“It’s a weird feeling. Over the past almost decade, throughout the whole ordeal, our family has been through so much. We have been worried, and we have been sad. But now that things are starting to draw to a close . . .” Philip’s voice cracked before he went silent for a moment and then cleared his throat.
“I am happy to see someone arrested.”
In 2012, Bluewater Bay homeowner Robert White asked his gardener to break down the flower-box in their backyard and a body with gunshot wounds to the head was discovered hidden in the structure.
The body, wrapped in a blanket with a plastic bag over the head, was later identified as Hibbers, who rented the property in 2008 and went missing that same year.
In 2014, following a two-day inquiry, the Port Elizabeth Magistrate’s Court ruled the cause of his death to be murder, but no one was ever arrested. Until now.
Hibbers, who had been declared bankrupt at the time, started a transport and logistics company in a new business partner’s name in Mpumalanga, and later moved their venture to Port Elizabeth where they rented the Bluewater Bay property where his body was found.
Philip said he had first suspected something was wrong when they tried to phone Hibbers on his birthday, July 26 2008.
Hibbers’s housemate answered his phone and said he had gone for a walk. When the family tried to phone later, the phone had turned off.
“Before his disappearance we had heard there was some tension between Wynand and his business partner. Wynand was thinking about bringing a new partner from Kimberley on board and cutting ties with his partner at the time. When he disappeared, some people thought he might have left due to his business interests.”
Despite being very concerned over his brother’s wellbeing, Philip said their family was under the impression he had left town with another family member and they were afraid that pressing for answers about Hibbers’s whereabouts would cause a rift within their family.
For 3½ years, despite major tension in their family over Hibbers’s disappearance, he remained unaccounted for, until the police contacted them about the body discovered in Bluewater Bay in 2012.
The investigation led to an official inquest by the court in 2014 where the magistrate ruled that Hibbers’s business partner had been involved in his murder. However, no arrests were made until now.
“Since then I have constantly been in contact with the courts and the police, trying to figure out what the latest was with the case and when an arrest would be made,” Philip said.
“Over time it became frustrating because it seemed like nothing was happening. But in the end our pressure and constant questions to the National Prosecuting Authority paid off.
“The investigating officer contacted me a week ago and said two people would be arrested in connection with my brother’s murder,” Philip said.
“We heard the case would continue in January, Then I will be in court to follow proceedings right to the end.”
Police spokesman Captain Andre Beetge confirmed that Bakkes had been arrested on Thursday and had appeared in court on the same day.
“I can also confirm that a second suspect, who cannot be named at this time, is expected to appear in court next week. At this stage we cannot divulge any information about the investigation and pending court case,” Beetge said.
The multiple fraud charges against Bakkes and her co-accused are related to a number of transactions done in Hibbers’s name after his disappearance.
Bakkes was released on warning and will return to the Port Elizabeth Magistrate’s Court on January 15.
Bakkes’s attorney, Alwyn Griebenow, said his client’s arrest was “ridiculous” as she had never been considered a suspect. “Her arrest came out of the blue.”
Griebenow said he had already received instruction to represent the second accused, who will be added to the case on Monday.
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