Either Mark Minnie went to his friend’s home in Theescombe to commit suicide, or he went there on Monday morning for some other reason. To figure out which is the most likely is simply a matter of lining up what he was doing in the days and hours before that fateful last day of his life – Monday August 13th.
Our best source in terms of these questions is from Minnie himself. What was he doing? What was he saying? In the last days of his life where was his head at, what was weighing on his heart?
Thanks to Media24’s Maygeen de Wee we have an extended peek into Minnie’s interiority via a lengthy 8 hour interview held on Friday August 10, from 11:00 onward.
Although the article says the interview was conducted “3 days” before Minnie’s death, it was actually closer to two. The interview began at 11:00 and ended at around 19:00. Minnie died Monday morning relatively early, based on a farmworker who reported hearing a gunshot.
Did much change over the 48 hours between his interview that ended Friday night and his death on Monday? Did Minnie have a change of heart overnight essentially?
The suicide and suicide note suggest that Minnie felt he had completed his work, was “tired” and, having published the book and reached the finish line, he felt like he wanted to rest permanently. Really?
There are two reasons this scenario doesn’t gel.
- Both Minnie and Steyn had been investigating several leads that have cropped up since the book was launched but had been careful to not publicise what they had since unearthed.
- Minnie was totally paranoid and didn’t want people to know that he had already returned to South Africa from China months ago. I had to give him my word that I wouldn’t tell anyone.Finally, after he had checked out my background, he agreed to meet me.Upon our return to Port Elizabeth he mentioned that he feared for his life, even if only a handful of people knew that he was back in South Africa. He also said that people on social media had tried to find out where he was.
If Minnie felt he had completed his work, why was he still investigating leads? If he felt it was mission accomplished, at least for himself on Monday, why was he out and about with journalists for hours on end on Friday night investigating leads? Does that sound like someone tired of life?
This clearly shows he didn’t feel he was done, even if the suicide note said that he was. There have also been plenty of comments by the authors that their book was only “the tip of the iceberg”. That doesn’t suggest their work was over by any means, does it?
There’s also this from Marianne Thamm, the woman who wrote the foreword to Minnie’s book, and so, had to have known of this directly:
“I know he was terrified for his life and that there are many who lurk in the shadows who would benefit from his death. During my meeting with him in Cape Town last year, he informed me he feared for his life and that the book would stir [up] a hornet’s nest.”
And this, published hours after his body was discovered:
Minnie met a source on Friday and was meant to meet another one on Monday. Both authors had been concerned about their safety and were reluctant to appear in public.
In terms of Minnie fearing for his life, why would you fear for your life if you planned to commit suicide? Why would you be paranoid about your safety 48 hours before planning to shoot yourself? Why would you set up an interview but shoot yourself before doing it?
If anything, if it was going to be over soon, wouldn’t you be more reckless? If you were going to die anyway, wouldn’t you publish files and photos you were carrying around with you? If you’d gone to so much trouble to stir up a hornet’s nest, why wouldn’t you go out with a bang in the sense of releasing your most compromising and dangerous stuff with your suicide note?
I believe Minnie went to Brent Barnes’ homes for two reasons. Firstly to keep a low profile. He was giving interviews around the clock, but he wanted to be careful about where he was staying and where he could be found. This caution is also not the sign of a tired heart or mind. He wanted to be away from where he was staying, and figured Theescombe was sufficiently rural that anyone looking for him wouldn’t find him. Secondly, his friend Brent Barnes is also an ex-cop. Minnie probably figured he’d be safe near Barnes.
There is a possibility that Barnes left his gun lying around and Minnie saw it, had a sudden mood swing, and decided on the spur of the moment that it was all too much for him. If that was the case, wouldn’t Minnie have made sure everyone knew his friend hadn’t killed him? Wouldn’t that be in the note? Wouldn’t he have left a message at the house where his body was, to save a search for him and Barnes’ becoming an obvious initial suspect? As a cop, Minnie would be painfully aware of how crime scenes appear, and so to not be clear that he’d taken Barnes’ weapon raises flags.
If this was a hit, it means someone knew Barnes had a gun, used this to shoot Minnie and left it at the scene. Who would know Barnes had a gun? Barnes is now being investigated for negligence surrounding the firearm.
Now consider the mismatch between investigating Barnes for negligence, but not needing to investigate Minnie’s death.
And far from Minnie not coping with stress, it seems he was. According to News24:
[Minnie] laughed when I asked him why he smoked so much. “It’s the only way I can cope with the stress.“…He was also excited about the first official launch of the book in September.
“Will I see you there [at the launch]?” [Minnie] wanted to know.
“Absolutely,” was my response.
So much work goes into a book, so much blood, sweat and tears, so much teeth-gnashing frustration, there are few authors who would abandon those efforts after publication and prior to the glitzy and glamorous launch that makes it all worthwhile. The recognition, the reward, the chance to talk about your work. Why would you write a book, promote it and then not launch it?
Did Minnie really have a change of heart between Friday night and Monday morning about his book? This was a book he’d quit his job over, moved from China to South Africa in order to get it done. Those are long term plans, life changing shifts. Also, Minnie himself was molested as a youngster. He’d lived with that knowledge for decades. It was deep-seated. It was part of his identity. So why would any of this suddenly bother him between Friday night and Monday morning?
On Monday morning, the same morning he died, Minnie also had another interview planned.
We also know that after his interview on Friday, Minnie continued to maintain contact on Saturday and Sunday with other folks. Minnie’s publishers for one. Tersia Dodo for another. Minnie had told Dodo if he died, that she must know it wasn’t an accident. On August 16th, Dodo told SABC:
I spoke to a couple of my cousins today and to all of them, he expressed that his life was in danger, and that if anything did happen to him, we must know that it was done to him, not by himself,” Dodo said.
It would be good if all those who received messages could come forward to establish a continuity of messages or emails they received. This is important if only to show cogency in Minnie’s state of mind throughout the weekend, not that there’s any real doubt about that.
About two weeks after his death, News24 published this update:
Maryna Lamprecht, commissioning editor at Tafelberg Publishers, confirmed Minnie’s death and added that the publishing house was “sad and devastated” by the events.
“We are proud to have had him as an author and we’re in contact with his son, who is in China.” She said Minnie was excited about the publishing of the book and the leads it had brought up. He was adamant that he wanted to investigate the matter further and had been working closely with a number of people who had come forward.
“He was very proud of the book,” Lamprecht said.
Curiously, Minnie’s cell phone disappeared the same day he died. If Minnie was killed, then his cell phone would be of crucial importance, especially to see what was being said on it, and with whom. It would also be necessary for Minnie to be alive so that his killer could “unlock” it.
Didn’t Minnie’s vehicle also disappear? If he committed suicide, how could he drive off with his own vehicle afterwards?
What was surprising was that by August 14, the day after Minnie’s death [and he was only found shortly before 21:00 on August 13] the media were already presenting the position of the police:
“At this stage no foul play is expected.”
He meant to say suspected. Or perhaps he said it right from the beginning – don’t ever expect this case to be about foul play.