Did an indecent proposal lead a British billionaire to ‘white mischief’ murder? Boss Harvey Boulter allegedly killed employee Gerhardus Van Wyk after making sex-for-rent comment about his daughter-in-law
Gerhardus Van Wyk will be laid to rest on Wednesday morning after a service at the Dutch Reformed kerk in the little Namibian bush town of Outjo.
Were it not for the coronavirus pandemic, hundreds of mourners would be expected to attend the funeral. Burly, bearded Mr Van Wyk was a popular figure in the remote north of Namibia, in southern Africa. A ‘gentle giant’, several friends have told the Mail.
He had led a life filled with great danger. As a young man during the Angolan Bush War (which raged from 1966 to 1990), he fought Soviet-backed guerrillas while serving in the apartheid-era South African Army. Later, as a park ranger and game-reserve manager, he battled poachers armed with assault rifles and faced charging elephants. He was a noted horseman.
A sudden, violent death was perhaps not out of keeping with this colourful past. But no one could have predicted the manner in which Van Wyk met his end aged 54: shot dead at a domestic barbecue last month, it is alleged, by his billionaire British boss, Harvey Boulter.
Gerhardus Van Wyk (pictured) will be laid to rest on Wednesday morning after a service at the Dutch Reformed kerk in the little Namibian bush town of Outjo
It is said he was killed after an argument over a sex-for-accommodation ‘indecent proposal’ that Boulter allegedly made concerning Van Wyk’s pretty daughter-in-law.
‘Thirty years after surviving the war, you don’t expect to die like that,’ says a former army comrade.
The tragedy for the Van Wyk family is only the latest twist in Harvey Boulter’s enigmatic life.
He is the Sussex-born investment and defence industries tycoon who gave tens of thousands of pounds to Ukip election campaigns and blew the whistle on a Westminster political scandal which led to the resignation of Tory defence secretary Dr Liam Fox a decade ago.
For the past two years, Boulter, 51, has been living (almost full-time, according to locals) on the 66,000-acre Kaross estate near the hamlet of Kamanjab in northern Namibia, which he bought in 2012 to indulge his love of big-game hunting. This week, Namibian police confirmed that Boulter had been charged with Mr Van Wyk’s murder and he was denied bail by a magistrate in Outjo.
But last night, his whereabouts were unclear. One official source said he was in custody at Outjo police station. Another said he was still being treated for minor injuries — sustained in the fatal incident — at a private hospital in the Namibian capital Windhoek, an eight-hour drive away. A third source suggested he had been discharged after treatment and was holed up at a luxury lodge.
A sudden, violent death was perhaps not out of keeping with this colourful past. But no one could have predicted the manner in which Van Wyk met his end aged 54: shot dead at a domestic barbecue last month, it is alleged, by his billionaire British boss, Harvey Boulter (pictured)
One legal source indicated that Boulter claims he fired in self-defence, having been attacked by Van Wyk and his son.
The Mail’s investigation has suggested that the Briton was a problem drinker who wore a 9mm semi-automatic pistol in a shoulder holster 24 hours a day.
The boundaries of his farm were protected by high-tech movement sensors, CCTV cameras and other defences. No one quite understood why he was so security-conscious.
Friends of the dead man claim Boulter is now being ‘treated with kid gloves’ because of his close relationship with members of Namibia’s government. They fear he might escape justice.
The lawyer representing the Van Wyk family told the Mail yesterday that, while Boulter’s British passport had been seized by the authorities, he still possessed several other passports, having lived in a number of countries since he left the UK.
There is an unmanned private airstrip next to his farm ‘from which he has gone in and out as he pleased,’ says a source.
‘If this ever gets to trial it will be a sensation. It will shine a light on the super-rich expat life here, like the White Mischief case did in Kenya,’ said another southern African, referring to the murder of the Earl of Erroll in East Africa in 1941, which led to a high-profile, inconclusive court case, as well as a 1987 film starring Charles Dance. (Many people the Mail spoke to are afraid to be named, as they think Boulter is highly influential.)
But it could also serve to illuminate the recent business dealings of the combative, controversial and secretive tycoon, who according to local legal sources has been providing military equipment to the Namibian police and defence force as well as rare species for the guns of wealthy foreign hunters.
White mischief, indeed.
So what happened on the night of February 27, when Mr Van Wyk was killed?
The events unfolded during a Saturday spit braai — a traditional whole-roast barbecue — which Boulter regularly held at Kaross.
Van Wyk and his wife Alta were there. For many years, he had worked as a game ranger at the nearby Etosha National Park.
‘He was really a special kind of ranger,’ says a long-time friend. ‘And he was very famous for his horse skills.’
The source thought Van Wyk had got the job at Kaross through Boulter’s South African-born then wife and mother of his three teenage children, Leonorah.
‘Harvey called him his estate manager, which made Gerhard laugh because he was a down-to-earth game ranger,’ said the friend. ‘But Gerhard turned [Kaross] into one of the best farms out there in the wild west of Namibia. It’s an absolute game paradise.’
Van Wyk’s son, Gerhardus Van Wyk Jr, was present, along with his new bride Liani. The son also worked for Boulter.
Boulter, who was acrimoniously divorced from Leonorah in 2019, had recently agreed that the newly married couple could build a home on his vast estate. This deal led to alleged murder.
Boulter had been drinking heavily, which was not unusual. It has been reported that the catalyst for the argument was Boulter’s alleged outrageous suggestion at the barbecue that, in return for her new marital home, Liani would have to have sex with him every other night. Understandably, her husband was not pleased. There was a heated argument. Boulter produced his gun.
‘Harvey apparently insulted Van Wyk’s daughter-in-law, became aggressive and threatened the family with a pistol,’ Chief Inspector Paavo Iyambo is reported to have said. ‘Van Wyk tried to keep the peace, intervened and tried to take the pistol away from Harvey.’
In the scuffle that followed, a shot was fired. The bullet hit Boulter’s hand and entered Van Wyk’s stomach.
Kaross is far from anywhere. You can’t just call an ambulance.
Van Wyk’s son, Gerhardus Van Wyk Jr, was present, along with his new bride Liani (pictured together). The son also worked for Boulter
Alta Van Wyk, Gerhardus Jr and Liani got the grievously wounded Mr Van Wyk into the family car and drove towards Outjo State Hospital, more than 100 miles away on a country road often crossed by large animals. It must have been a hellish journey — and increasingly heartbreaking. They had almost made it to Outjo when Mr Van Wyk died in the car.
Pastor Lukas Coetzer, who had known Mr Van Wyk for 30 years and will officiate at his funeral next week, told the Mail: ‘The circumstances of his death are hard to understand because he wasn’t aggressive. So I couldn’t believe the news. At first, I thought it must be a hunting accident.’
He added: ‘I’ve met with Alta and will meet her again before the funeral, when the family from South Africa and other parts of Namibia arrive on Monday. The process is still very raw.
‘The tragedy is that Alta and Gerhard gave their whole life to Boulter’s farm. He was totally devoted to serving Harvey.’
Another old friend of the dead man told the Mail last night: ‘Alta’s in a hell of a state. He died in her arms and now they’ve lost everything. They’ve got to leave the farm.’
So who is Harvey Boulter, the man at the centre of all this?
After graduating from Bristol University, he joined the Swiss banking giant UBS. While there, he advised the Ministry of Defence on restructuring and is reported to have received top-level security clearance. After leaving UBS he struck out on his own, founding the private equity company Porton Group, which is based in the tax-haven Cayman Islands.
This venture would make Boulter very rich. He was based in Hong Kong for 17 years, then moved to Dubai and the U.S. before settling in southern Africa. Along the way, he attracted a lot of attention.
It was in Dubai that Boulter sought out and then brought down then-Defence Secretary Liam Fox.
The tycoon had fallen into a legal dispute in America with another company and wanted the UK government help. He was told to contact the Tory minister’s young gatekeeper Adam Werritty, whom Boulter thought at first was Fox’s official MoD adviser. In 2011, there was a Werrity-brokered meeting with Fox on the 41st floor of a hotel in Dubai.
Boulter came to realise that Werrity was not employed by the MoD. Rather, he was Fox’s close friend — indeed, had been best man at his wedding — and had his own business interests. Even so, he had accompanied the defence secretary on 18 overseas visits, his expenses paid for by private donors.
So who is Harvey Boulter, the man at the centre of all this? He is pictured with the Clintons in the US
When Boulter made this strange arrangement public — and suggested they had even discussed the knighthood that was to be given to the boss of the firm with which he was in dispute — Fox was forced to resign.
The animus between the men did not end there. Boulter gave £30,000 to the Ukip candidate who stood against Fox in North Somerset, while Fox sued Boulter for libel in relation to remarks the tycoon had made about him to Sky TV and in emails, questioning his integrity.
In 2014, the case was settled before it went to trial, with Boulter having to apologise and pay Fox damages and legal costs.
There was further controversy in 2015, when a group of unhappy investors in Boulter’s firm Porton Capital took legal action, accusing him of mishandling £400 million of their money. Boulter denied any wrongdoing and the case came to nothing.
Otherwise his life seemed idyllic. His wife Leonorah gave an interview in Dubai about the £18 million home they had developed in the exclusive Emirates Hills neighbourhood: ‘We lived in Hong Kong, which is very tropical and surrounded by mountains and greenery,’ she said. ‘When we moved to Dubai, which is a desert landscape, we wanted to create a little piece of the Tropics here.’
Boulter drove a Rolls-Royce (he also had a Ferrari, which he raced), sailed an 80-metre yacht and owned a private jet.
In 2016 ,they moved from the Middle East to Washington DC.
But their marriage didn’t last. This week, a neighbour of Leonorah’s late parents in South Africa told the Mail: ‘Her mother told me Leonorah couldn’t handle Harvey’s philandering any more, so she divorced him and left with the kids. They are living in America still.’
After the break-up, Boulter spent more and more time at his Namibian farm.
Uwe Hoth, who sold Kaross and the adjoining property to Boulter, told the Mail he first heard of the billionaire in mid-2012, when a helicopter flew at low level over their property. Uwe and his wife Tammy were running a lion rehabilitation programme on the farm.
Boulter then contacted them and offered to buy their land. He wanted to turn Kaross into an exclusive hunting farm.
Documents show the estate was bought through a Boulter-controlled company. Since then, Boulter has funded several local philanthropic enterprises — but he has also won a reputation as a very tough man to do business with.
‘Harvey is a bully who used his money to get anything and everything,’ said Mr Hoth, 65. ‘He told me once: ‘I love taking people to court because I can. The bigger the opponent, the better for me.’ ‘
Another local who had dealings with Boulter called him a ‘cheap c***’ for his aggressive approach to driving down costs that had already been agreed.
But he has friends in high places. Locals say he is close to the former Minister of Defence Erkki Nghimtina and to Lt-Gen Sebastian Ndeitunga, commander of the Namibian police, among others.
One source said Boulter had bought a number of male white rhinos for trophy-hunting on his farm — such hunting of black and white rhino is legally permitted in Namibia under certain conditions. Foreign hunters can be charged up to £216,000 a head for killing a rhino, depending on the size of the horn.
But he had problems. An acquaintance said he became depressed after his divorce and had taken to drinking heavily. Friends of the Van Wyk family said Boulter had attended the younger Van Wyk’s wedding to Liani last year, when he got very drunk and abusive towards other guests.
At the Kamanjab Oktoberfest (Namibia was once part of the German Empire) last year, he is said to have insisted that everyone drink glasses of Jägermeister, a powerful German digestif, with him. Boulter proceeded to get so drunk, he had to be carried to his car to be taken back to the farm 20 miles away.
During the fatal incident last month, Boulter held a gun to the younger Van Wyk’s head, several sources have told the Mail.
After the shooting, Boulter was taken to Outjo and charged with murder before being transferred to the private MediClinic hospital in Windhoek for an operation on his hand.
Last night, Van Wyk family lawyer Jan Wessels said Boulter’s whereabouts were a mystery. ‘We heard he was in the MediClinic but when we followed that up, we were told he was discharged on March 5. I am waiting to hear back from the prosecutor.’
Wessels added that Mr Van Wyk’s body had been sent to Windhoek this week for a second autopsy. ‘So we know where the deceased is but not where the accused is. I hope he is still in custody but we will have to wait and see.’
Outjo state prosecutor Penda Hamunyela said that, as far as he knew, Boulter was still undergoing medical treatment. He was shocked to hear that he had apparently been discharged.
Speaking to the Mail, Boulter’s lawyer, Evert Gouws, would only confirm the charge of murder against his client. He would not disclose whether Boulter was in police custody.
The tycoon is scheduled to appear in a local court on April 24 for a preliminary hearing.
Money talks in Namibia, though it will take a lot for Harvey Boulter to walk away from this.
But as a friend of Gerhardus Van Wyk told the Mail last night: ‘Up there [in Kaross], a man like Boulter is a law unto himself.’
Additional reporting: John Grobler in Namibia and Mike Behr in South Africa
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