PRETORIA, SOUTH AFRICA — Thirty years ago, a pedophile serial killer and his accomplice lover were stalking South Africa. You would never think it to look at them — they look they could have been anyone’s doting grandparents.
Cornelius Gerhardus “Gert” van Rooyen abducted, sexually assaulted and killed at least six young girls between 1988 and 1989. His girlfriend, Joey Haarhoff, helped him lure the young victims, who were aged between 9 and 16 years old.
Van Rooyen was born in 1938, and had a rough childhood, full of car theft, reform school, and prison time. Once out, though, he seemed to get it together, and married, had six children, and helped run a family construction business.
But in 1979, he abducted two girls, aged 10 and 13, and reportedly punched them in the face and forced them to strip naked and perform sexual acts. He released them the next day. He was arrested for the heinous crimes, but served only three years for the abductions and sexual assaults.
Van Rooyen’s wife divorced him after that disgrace. But in 1988, he met a woman who was to change his life: divorcée Joey Haarhoff. Somehow, she either shared his taste for young girls, or at least was submissive enough to him to facilitate satisfying his predilections. Because almost immediately after the couple paired up, Haarhoff was helping to lure young girls home and participating in the depraved sexual assaults and murders.
Children’s homes and orphanages reported that Haarhoff telephoned requesting to allow girls to visit for the holidays and weekends. At some point, the couple put in an application to foster children, but it was rejected.
The couple’s alleged victims include Tracy-Lee Scott-Crossley, 14, who disappeared on her way to a shopping mall in 1989.Two months later, Fiona Harvey, 12, of Pietermaritzburg, disappeared, followed by Joan Horn, 12, on June 7, 1989. Janet Delport, 16, was lucky and escaped from the couple after she was kidnapped in a mall in July 1989. On September 22, 1989, Kempton Park girls Odette Boucher, 11, and, Anne-Marie Wapenaar, 12, went missing.
The couple’s horrific crime spree came to an end in January 1990 when their final attempted victim, 16-year-old Joan Booysen, escaped from their home in Capital Park.
As police were closing in on the couple a few days later, Van Rooyen shot Haarhoff, then killed himself. Their deaths meant that the wicked couple were never convicted of any charges — and the bodies of their victims were never found.
Over the years, several teams of forensic specialists have searched the area around Blythedale Beach, north of Durban where investigators believe Van Rooyen buried his victims.
In 2007, a set of adolescent bones was found on the beach near Umdloti, Kwazulu-Natal. But it was later determined that the bones were less than 10 years old, and could not have been any of the couple’s victims.
Haarhoff’s daughter Amor van der Westhuyzen later wrote a book called Battered, Abused, Shamed — and described the abuse she suffered at the hands of her mother.
Celebrate Valentine’s Day in an Investigation Discovery way with our “Love Triangles Deadlier Than The One Near Bermuda” ID GO playlist!
Recommended For You:
Main photo: Joey Haarhoff and Gert Van Rooyen [supplied/fair use]