A few small bones in a garden and a letter confessing to Thandiwe Betty Ketani’s murder helped the state to bring three men to book for her death – nearly 17 years after her disappearance.

Ketani’s daughter, Bulelwa, broke down in tears as the men were convicted of her killing.


Ketani, who worked as a chef at Thai restaurant Cranks in Rosebank, disappeared in May 1999. Thirteen years later a letter penned by Carrington Laughton, in which he confessed to Ketani’s murder, was discovered hidden underneath a carpet at a house in Kenilworth, Johannesburg.

Laughton was yesterday convicted of Ketani’s kidnapping and murder. Johannesburg High Court Judge Natvarlal Ranchod also convicted him of attempting to kidnap Ruth Mncube, who worked with Ketani.

Brothers David and Carel Ranger, both former police officers, were convicted of Ketani’s kidnapping and culpable homicide. All three men had pleaded not guilty, while three other men – Conway Brown, Paul Toft-Nielson and Dirk Reinecke – earlier pleaded guilty and testified in exchange for lighter sentences. A few small hand and foot bones, later identified as Ketani’s through DNA testing, were found in the garden of the Kenilworth home. Her body lay in the garden under flower beds for five years before it was dug up and thrown in a river. The rest of her remains have not been found.

“The state presented a formidable case against all three accused. The court is convinced that the letter [confessing to Ketani’s murder] is genuine. The court is satisfied that the remains are those of Betty Ketani,” Ranchod said, adding that Laughton was an “unreliable witness” whose evidence was fraught with inconsistencies.

Outside court, Bulelwa expressed her joy.

“I would have been disappointed had they walked free. I am sure my siblings will also be happy.”

The men will be sentenced on May 3.

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