A South African couple, Jaco Louw and Lisa van der Westhuizen who were travelling with a toddler were locked up in Rundu for fraud and various other crimes after a social media campaign was launched during the week by family members who were concerned for the 16-month-old, Louwtjie Louw, who was used by the fugitives in a crime spree throughout Namibia for the past year.
An alert resident and lodge owner of Rundu alerted family members that the fugitive couple with the child was at his lodge whereafter the police took them into custody and later released the boy into the custody of a Windhoek couple.
Lisa van der Westhuizen is a convicted criminal in South Africa where she served time in jail after her mother, out of desperation laid theft charges against her.
Soon after her release Van der Westhuizen and Louw fled to Namibia where the travelling criminal family left a trail of fraud deception and theft using the baby as cover to solicit funds and sympathy from generous people across Namibia.
The couple sold all the furniture at the last free accommodation they received in Gobabis and left the town without the landlord suspecting any wrong-doing.
After a few days the landlord entered the empty flat out of concern for the little baby and started the social media manhunt that saw the arrest of the criminal couple now in the Rundu police cells.
The crime spree that continued for at least a year was exposed by the frantic search by Elize Lee, a resident of Windhoek, for the couple’s little baby boy, who she believed was abandoned by his parents while they attempted to flee pursuing police officers.
The desperate search started almost at the same time that a resident of Gobabis, Vanessa van der Merwe, registered a case of theft and fraud with the Namibian Police.
Van der Merwe took to social media and requested people to help her trace the fugitives.
According to Van der Merwe, the couple arrived in Gobabis at beginning of May and they rented an apartment from her. She said the family only had their clothes and a few other personal items with them.
“They had the little boy with them and when they asked me if I would be kind enough to allow them to pay off the rent money and furnish the flat for them, I agreed because I felt sorry for the baby.”
Van der Merwe said that Louw told her that he found a job as a mechanic in town and that initially everything went well with her new tenants.
“It was only when the end of the month came around and the rent was due that I started to suspect that something was wrong. They started making promises but did not pay the rent.
Van der Merwe said she went looking for the couple at the beginning of this week after several calls went unanswered. She heard from a neighbour that the family haven’t been seen since the start of weekend.
“The man said they just disappeared and even left the green double cab bakkie with which they arrived here, parked at the flat. I found that strange and went inside the flat only to discover that all the furniture I bought to help them were missing. They must have sold all the new furniture to buy whatever the needed. The flat was left in an absolute mess of dirty diapers and cigarette butts.”
Van der Merwe said that by Tuesday she decided to lay a charge of theft and fraud with the police. She also launched a search on social media for the fugitive couple.
“That is when the calls from people from all over the country started. Most of the calls were from people telling me that they too are looking for Koos and Lisa. That is how I discovered that the green bakkie they left at the flat was reported as stolen by the owner in Rehoboth.”
She said another person told her that Louw, while staying on a small holding in Brakwater on the outskirts of Windhoek, stole 20 sheep. He allegedly opened a butchery and advertised the stolen meat on social media.”
Lisa van der Westhuizen is a South African national, who has been in Namibia illegally for quite some time. She was convicted and sentenced to jail in South Africa after her own mother, Marina Meyer, accused her theft. Marina Meyer was only willing to confirm that her daughter was indeed incarcerated a few years ago when called in South Africa by Informanté.
“One of the callers was Elize Lee from Windhoek. She asked me if I knew where the little baby was, because she heard that the couple was arrested in Windhoek and that they escaped from police custody. She told me that Lisa refused to tell her where the baby was and that she was told that the couple are on their way to Angola to escape justice,” Van der Merwe said.
Van der Merwe said she also got a call from a man in Rundu on Thursday, who informed her that Louw, his wife and little baby was staying at his lodge next to the Kavango River and that they asked him for employment.
“The lodge owner agreed to keep the couple at the lodge until the police arrived. I informed the detectives in Gobabis and they called their colleagues in Rundu. I also informed Elize that the baby was locked up with his parents in Rundu.”
Lee’s frantic search for little Louwtjie started because she feared for his life.
“We heard from Vanessa that the police arrested Koos and Lisa in Rundu and I immediately called a social worker there to help me to get Louwtjie to safety because he was in the holding cells with his mother,” Lee said.
Lee said the social worker went to the police station and later even facilitated communication between her and Louwtjie’s mother.
“At first they asked me to get them a lawyer to help them get bail and to help them with bail money. They also asked me to talk to Vanessa in Gobabis to see if she wouldn’t withdraw the case against them. Lisa knows that the family loves Louwtjie and even tried to extort me by saying if we give them enough money for bail they would sign away their rights as parents to my husband and I.”
Lee said she had a long discussion with her husband and they decided to adopt Louwtjie and ensure that he grows up away from his parents and the environment of neglect.
“I immediately got into the car and drove all the way to Rundu on Friday night to fetch Louwtjie.”
Lee said Koos and Lisa signed documents with the social worker that would enable her to take care of Louwtjie in the safety of her home until the adoption process is finalised.
“When I got to Rundu the child was filthy and absolutely traumatised. The only clothes he had was those he was wearing and he had a little blanket that was very dirty. It looked like Louwtjie crawled out of a rubbish bin.”
Lee and Louwtjie arrived safely in Windhoek on Saturday and since then she has been taking care of the little boy.