News24 podcast cracks open murder mystery that stumped South African justice system

By Qama Qukula


Cape Town and Johannesburg, South Africa


Seventeen years after the brutal murder of South African university student Inge Lotz, many questions remain. South Africa’s leading online news platform, News24, decided to take on the story with a podcast that would explore the weaknesses in South Africa’s justice system and ask why the police never cracked the perplexing case. 

Lotz lived in the university town of Stellenbosch, where she shined academically while studying actuarial science. On Wednesday, March 16, 2005, her body was found in her apartment, brutally bludgeoned and stabbed to death.

Lotz’s boyfriend at the time, Fred van der Vyver, was widely regarded as the prime suspect, but it would later emerge that police tried pinning the murder on the wrong person.

To investigate the 17-year-old cold case of Inge Lotz's murder, News24 created a podcast series and uncovered sloppy police work and missed opportunities to find the killer.
To investigate the 17-year-old cold case of Inge Lotz's murder, News24 created a podcast series and uncovered sloppy police work and missed opportunities to find the killer.

Digging through evidence

In News24’s six-part podcast series, The Inge Lotz Story: A Miscarriage of Justice, producers Catherine Rice and Matthew Brown interrogate every piece of evidence the state had against van der Vyver.

They transcribed thousands of hours of audio and painstakingly trawled through piles of files in an effort to uncover the truth.

The podcast series, featuring special companion videos, delves into the complexities of Lotz’s murder case, including flawed crime scene evidence, van der Vyver’s long fight to clear his name, and a police report pointing to a different suspect.

A decade of digging and searching for answers

Brown, a freelance director and filmmaker, spent nearly a decade digging up the details of Lotz’s unsolved murder case before teaming up with News24 and Catherine Rice in January 2021.

During his own research, Brown interviewed dozens of key sources and travelled to the United States to interview international forensic experts about the holes in the case.

“When I started to speak to the experts, particularly people from the FBI and Interpol, I started to find out that not only was the evidence against Fred inaccurate, but probably fabricated. In fact, there was another suspect that police had ignored,” Brown revealed.  

After a mammoth trial, van der Vyver was eventually acquitted, but in the court of public opinion, many people are still not convinced of his innocence.

If Fred’s family had not had the financial means to appoint globally respected experts to defend him, Brown said he could have easily spent his life in jail.

Why would the police want to frame a seemingly innocent man? Where other suspects properly investigated?

These are the questions put forward in the podcast series, which was published in September 2021 exclusively for News24’s paying subscribers.

The mystery that remains

Police seemingly ignored a crucial twist in their investigation — a man who had confessed to his involvement in the crime several weeks after Lotz’s body was found. The man, Werner Carolus, was a known drug addict with a lengthy criminal record.

Carolus was never adequately investigated, despite a police report by former detective Piet Viljoen recommending he be pursued as a suspect. According to Brown, this is just one example of how police and prosecutors let both Lotz and van der Vyver’s families down.

He believes Lotz’s unsolved murder highlights the failures of South Africa’s criminal justice system caused by poor evidence gathering, collapsing forensic labs, incompetence, and an under-resourced police force.

“Although [the podcast] was about one specific case, to me, it was one specific case that highlighted the problem of the justice system, not the case itself,” Brown added.

Giving the family answers

After 17 years, authorities have been able to give the Lotz family closure. Rice believes storytelling mediums such as podcasts are an important way to highlight the tragic realities and “crime crisis” in South Africa: “Victims are being let down on a daily basis. There is no justice for many people,” she said.

“We have a major problem facing our justice system, and I think since the Inge Lotz case, things have deteriorated significantly,” Rice added.

About Qama Qukula

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