THE horrific accident in which the 47-year-old Werner Beddies burnt to death after he hit a truck on the road between Windhoek and Gobabis on Fridays afternoon prompted a suicide investigation by the Namibian Police.
Before his death Beddies was embroiled in a civil claim court case stemming from an incident of gender based violence in December last year where he assaulted and attempted to throttle a woman to whom he owed money.
Before his fall from grace Beddies was a leading executive who served in the top positions of tourism companies and served on the boards of associations in various capacities.
The commander of the Namibian Police in the Khomas Region, Commissioner Joseph Shikongo, confirmed the identity of the deceased person and said suicide will definitely form part of the investigation.
Beddies was the driver of the sedan vehicle that crashed into a heavy transport truck causing both vehicles to burst into flames. The truck driver, who managed to escape from his vehicle before it burnt out, was seriously injured and taken to a Windhoek Hospital for emergency medical treatment.
Beddies gained international notoriety as a person who defrauded overseas visitors and local tourism operators on a regular basis.
He was the respondent in a civil suit launched by Yvonne Schadee earlier this year where she claims more than N$500 000 in damages after he assaulted her in his office when she went to confront him over money that he owed her. During the confrontation in December last year Beddies assaulted Schadee and even attempted to strangle her while his employees looked on without helping the victim.
In the week before his death Beddies defrauded another tourism service provider, who is in the business of renting out overland trucks to tourist operators in Namibia, with more than N$90 000 dollars.
According to Shaun Awaseb he travelled to Germany and upon his return last week discovered that Beddies defrauded him.
“I insisted from the beginning that he pay for the truck’s rental up front. He did not do that but later furnished us with an e-mailed payment advice indicating that he paid N$60 000 into the business account. I was in Germany at the time but upon my return last Thursday I discovered that the payment was never made and that the e-mailed payment advice was falsified.
Awaseb said he phoned Beddies and insisted that the money be transferred within the hour and said if it was not done then he would order his driver to leave the tourist group where they are and return to Windhoek.
“Beddies told me that one of his employees stole N$1 million from his office and that he was struggling to get the money together to pay for the truck rental. I told him that he was the person that committed the fraud by sending the falsified payment advice and that the money was to paid immediately.”
According to Awaseb his driver phoned him shortly afterwards and told him that the tourist group on the truck was stuck at the Swakopmund Hotel and Entertainment Centre because Beddies did not pay for the accommodation as he promised them.
“That man has caused a lot of damage to the Namibian Tourism Industry. I cannot understand how he was allowed to continue with his fraud for so long,” Awaseb said.
One disgruntled German tourist, who was defrauded by Beddies in the past, even went as far as launching the werner-beddies.com website in which he describes the modus operandi of the fraudster in the finest detail.
The website states that the tourist and his wife dealt with Safari An-Africa also known as Namibia Reservations and that they prepaid for their entire holiday experience. Yet when they arrived they were stuck and had to pay for all their accommodation again which ruined their holiday completely. The entire experience left the tourist EUR9 845 out of pocket because of the fraud.
“After speaking to the many Lodge owners throughout our holiday, we understood that this is Werner Beddies’s common practice to steal their money and never pay them. This is fraud!”
In his life Beddies served amongst others as the Chief Executive Officer of Leading Lodges. He also served in leadership capacity of tourism associations like the Hospitality Association in Namibia where he organised several conferences that would have brought private investment in the Namibian tourism industry.
He fell from grace with all the companies and associations and started his own company Safari An-Africa which many overseas tourists who had dealings with the company describe as friendly at first but unhelpful and rude when problems such as unpaid accommodation arises.