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Former editor stands by decision not to run Bird Island paedophilia story 31 years ago

Former policeman and author Mark Minnie was found dead next to a gun and a suicide note.
Former policeman and author Mark Minnie was found dead next to a gun and a suicide note.
Image: Facebook / Mark Minnie

"We published if it was publishable."

That's the view of Tony Heard‚ the editor of the Cape Times during the period that rumours around the involvement of National Party ministers being part of a paedophile ring in the 1980s were rife.

Heard‚ a respected and award-winning journalist‚ who infamously published an interview with Oliver Tambo in the 1980s - a move which was illegal at the time as "special" permission had to be granted to publish interviews with ANC officials - said he was not prepared to be apologetic for his decision not to publish the story about John Wiley‚ one of the ministers named in the paedophile ring. "An editorial decision was taken" based on what he says was "publishable at the time"‚ he said.

"I carefully considered the material placed before me. I published what I felt was publishable. That's all."

Co-author of the controversial book‚ The Lost Boys of Bird Island‚ Chris Steyn‚ who was a journalist at the Cape Times during that period‚ wrote in the book she had put together information on Wiley that was meant to be published as the 'Wiley Dossier'.

She said she had sources detailing the "intimate details of the sex and professional lives of a cabinet minister and his police reservist friend"‚ a child-victim who needed a life-saving operation and details about corruption involving ministers.

Steyn‚ along with former cop and co-author‚ Mark Minnie‚ claim in the book that National Party ministers Magnus Malan‚ John Wiley‚ an unnamed minister and Port Elizabeth businessman Dave Allen‚ were all part of the ring which ferried coloured boys to Bird Island in Algoa Bay and raped and molested them.

Wiley and Allen died of apparent suicide‚ although the book details alleged inconsistencies with the listed cause of death.

"This excessive caution exercised by the Cape Times in the case of the Wiley story was as baffling to me as it was infuriating‚" writes Steyn in the book.

Heard‚ however‚ stands by his decision not to publish at the time. He told the publication: "There were rumours but newspapers don't just print rumours."

He said "much of the material was largely new" to him and has called on the media to follow up on the claims.

"At the moment there is a lot that needs to be cleared up. There needs to be the most thorough criminal investigation. The material I have now seen is largely new to me and it's absolutely terrifying.

"I don't remember information about a firearm being fired in someone's rear-end. It [South Africa's past] makes me ashamed to be a South African."

Minnie was found dead on Monday‚ just nine days after the book was released. He was found with a gun next his body and a suicide note but friends who did not want to be named told said that they didn't believe he would kill himself.

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