Why did Mark Minnie go to Theescombe on the morning of his death, and what does it mean?

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?unnamed (1)

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.

  1. 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.
  2. 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?

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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.

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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.

Fullscreen capture 20180901 000140Curiously, 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.


12 Similarities Between Mark Minnie’s Suicide Note and Dave Allen’s

It would be useful to study the original note to determine a few basics: the overall length. The type of paper used and where he got it. The pen used, and where he got that [and where the pen is now]. Also, the fingerprints on the note. And finally, to have a look at Minnie’s habit – was he in the habit of writing notes [by hand], and if so, what did that look like? That can be compared to other post-its, if available. Also, did he write letters to his children? How did he usually communicate?

Then there’s the broader question. It addresses the entire hypothesis.


Do you think it’s the realm of conspiracy theory that suicide notes aren’t staged – or can’t be? In the archive of high profile true crime cases, there are countless examples of writing masquerading as something that it isn’t: fake diary entries [Jodi Arias], bogus Ransom Notes [JonBenet Ramsey], counterfeit prison diaries [Amanda Knox, Casey Anthony], a fake suicide message painted on a door [Rebecca Zahau].


Below is an excerpt of the alleged suicide note of Bird Island co-author Mark Minnie. Do you think it’s genuine?

“The pitiful cries of the lost boys of Bird Island have haunted me for the past 31 years. At last their story is out. Chrissy, don’t give up now. You are almost home. No government officials preventing you from investigating this time round.”

And here’s the alleged suicide note of Dave Allen from 1987:

“I have committed suicide. There is no one to blame for this. I have suffered incredible back problems since a motor accident many years ago and I have decided to end things.” 

If you’re unfamiliar with this story, and want to find out how Allen’s alleged suicide and Mark Minnie’s alleged suicide are related to one another, read this article.

12 Similarities

  1. Indirect despair. In the Minnie note, a reason is given for committing suicide. Minnie is “haunted” by the suffering for others. He’s not haunted by his own experience of childhood rape. Anyone who doesn’t understand true crime will fail to see the difference, but there’s a big difference in being in a car accident, and being aware of someone else being in one. The trauma is completely different. Imagine saying you were scared to drive because you read in a newspaper about a car accident? Compare that to being injured in a car accident, and then being too afraid to drive. In the Allen note it’s the same. Incredible back problems are given as a reason for despair. An authentic reason would cite pain and difficulty moving around, the actual experience of it.
  2. Indirect timing. Suicide is premeditated murder. There may be a precipitating tension, a driving force, but also a trigger. One is emotionally compromised, one is vulnerable, and then something pushes one over the edge. So what’s the trigger here? Both the Minnie Note and the Allen note reference the same word: years. But what’s changed in all this time? Surely the best time to commit suicide is right in the beginning, not after years of recovery, and in Minnie’s case, even recovering enough to write a book, which in itself requires enormous willpower and resilience.
  3. “Many Years.” Both notes invoke long periods of time. Suicidal people are caught in a bubble. A precipitating event causes them to despair, and to lose hope in dealing with their problems. They’re overwhelmed. Just as suicidal people can’t imagine suffering in any other way besides being interminable , they can’t look beyond the moment that’s consuming them either into the future, or into the past. In short, there’s too much savvy perspective for someone at the end of their rope.
  4. Handwritten. The Allen suicide note can be forgiven for being written by hand, seeing it was the late 1980’s. Even so, why write I note by hand and then head outdoors and risk the note being lost or soiled by weather? If you don’t want to kill yourself at home, why not in your car? Why outside? The handwritten note and the outside element are a mismatch. Ditto the Minnie note. It’s even less likely that someone who has written a book, and has the use of a smartphone and email in the early 21st century, wouldn’t make use of these tools. If he’d written a book, and a note, and fielded dozens of interviews just prior to the “suicide”, then you can be sure it would have been uppermost in his mind that the note would be scrutinized, and could help get the message out regarding the book he’d toiled on. So why not do that? Why not send a group email to friends and a group email to the media [Minnie’s note is separated into a message to his co-author] and a message to family? Why not communicate directly to his family? Why not communicate directly to his partner?
  5. Too self-evident, and probably not true. In the Minnie note the words “you are almost home” are too self-evident, ditto “I have decided to end things” in the Allen note.
  6. Hinging. Both notes have a hinge where something is set up, and then dramatically relieved. In Minnie’s, he’s haunted, he’s struggled, but that’s okay, Chrissy – it’s up to you now. The problem is stated. The problem is solved. In Allen’s, no one is to blame and that’s hinged on himself who has decided to end things.
  7. Have. Without seeing the full Minnie note, it’s difficult to make an accurate call on this. The word have is often used in bogus 911 calls. Patsy Ramsey: We have a kidnapping. It’s the wrong word for an emergency situation, because it suggests the situation is under control, especially in the mind of the person reporting it. The Minnie note is just too clear on how haunted he is. It’s not the boys haunting him either, or his own suffering, it’s the pitiful cries. In the Allen note the word features three times. I have committed/I have suffered/I have decided. Compare that tohave haunted me.
  8. Similar cadence. Consider these two sentences.  I have committed suicide. There is no one to blame for this. It could also be written: I have committed suicide, there is no one to blame for this. Compare that to: Chrissy, don’t give up now. You are almost home and Chrissy, don’t give up now, you are almost home.
  9. Wrong Tense for a Suicide Note. I have committed suicide, there is no one to blame for this. As soon as it’s one sentence, what feels glaringly wrong is he hasn’t committed suicide yet. The letter’s already written in the past tense. Wow. That’s a lot of perspective for a suicide note, thinking about how the reader will be seeing it when he reads it. Chrissy, don’t give up now, you are almost home is less on the chin, except it’s also intuiting Chrissy’s response, and soothing her.
  10. Veiled threat. If both these notes are staged, then someone has gone to a lot of effort. Staging involves sadism. The Ramsey Ransom Note is replete with a taunting tone. There may not be explicit taunting here, because the priority is to pass the note off as a suicide note. But there does seem to be subconscious taunting. Think of these words: Pitiless cries…their story is out…don’t give up now…you are almost home. No government officials preventing you from investigating this time round…In the Allen note There is no one to blame for this is just as ironic as don’t give up now. Seen otherwise, of course someone is to blame for Allen’s death, whether it is Allen himself or someone else. Ditto, of course Chris Steyn should consider giving up, irrespective of whether Minnie has really committed suicide or not.
  11. An Afrikaans Speaker? The entire Minnie note just feels slightly stilted. Pitiful cries...It’s not a word that’s commonly used, except to express contempt. [That’s pitiful! That’s a pitiful attempt!]. I know what is trying to be communicated, but if these boys were abused and tortured, then something more personal, more intimate, more charged would be more appropriate. But Minnie was never there to hear them? A stronger way of communicating it would be to leave out the pitiful cries completely and simply say I’m tortured by their suffering… In Allen’s note he refers to a motor accident. Perhaps he spoke that way in general. Most of us would say a car accident, or a car crash. There’s also this in the Minnie note: You are almost home. No government officials preventing you from investigating this time round. Would English-speakers say: You are almost home. Imagine someone running the Comrades and at the finish line, with seconds left on the clock, a slow, staccato: YOU ARE ALMOST HOME. It’s a  colloquial expression, and Minnie’s a colloquial, rough-around-the-edges guy: You’re almost home! No government officials preventing you from investigating this time round. It should read: No government officials are preventing you from investigating this time round. The fact that the are is missing elevates the are, and turns it into a question: Are government officials preventing you from investigating…? The word “preventing” is also very formal for an ex-cop. Why not just say: No one can stop you now! That’s how you would say it, but when you do, it doesn’t like that’s really the case, does it, even if Minnie did kill himself.
  12. Minimum Safe Distance. The biggest giveaway in both notes is the inherent distancing. It’s not just the words, many of them self-evident, it’s what’s not there. There’s no emotion. In the Minnie note the only hint of an emotion in terms of himself is in the word haunted. There’s residue in him telling his partner not to give up. Haunted is hardly a motion driving one to despair. In the Allen note the back problems are elevated to “suffered incredible back problems”, because the author knows back problems on their own won’t cut it, they need to be incredible, and saying where they came from also helps. In the Minnie note, the author is just as explicit saying where his suffering and problems came from: The pitiful cries of the lost boys of Bird Island have haunted me…

Ironically I think there is a kernel of truth in both notes that the writer perhaps didn’t intend to leave. Both these statements, I believe, are true and remain in effect:

The pitiful cries of the lost boys of Bird Island have haunted me…

There is no one to blame for this.