Hostie or hitman?

Hostie or hitman?

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ROSS COULTHART: The allegation is that you got away with it for 13 years. For 13 years, this dirty secret lay hidden and then last year, by complete fluke, a confession letter was literally found under a carpet. Your ex-boyfriend, Carrington Laughton, allegedly felt that he was about to be killed. He feared that his life was in danger, so 13 years ago he apparently wrote a confession and in that confession, he names you as his co-conspirator. He names you as the orchestrator of murder.

MONIQUE: That's what I've read.

ROSS: In a South African courtroom, six men face jail for torture, kidnap and murder.

WOMAN: All rise.

ROSS: But one of the alleged ringleaders isn't here. She's an Australian who says she's being set up. Depending on who you believe, I am either about to sit down with an innocent woman wrongfully accused of murdering Betty Ketani, a mother of three, or Monique Neeteson-Lemkes, a former Jetstar flight attendant, is the brains behind a near-perfect crime. A kidnap and murder only uncovered after the chance discovery of a startling letter from her fearful former lover.

MAN: (READS) "If you're reading this then I am dead. Contained herein is all the information relating to Monique."

ROSS: Did you kill Betty Ketani?

MONIQUE: No, Ross, never.

MAN (READS): "We drove her about 10 minutes further down the highway and killed her."

ROSS: They are incredible allegations.

MONIQUE: Look at me, Ross, come on! Like, look at me.

ROSS: Three of the six men Monique is accused of recruiting to murder Betty have admitted their guilt. The nature of your offence is such that it was both brutal and genius. Police want Monique returned to South Africa to face trial and she's not the only one. They also want this man, another member of her alleged gang. His name is Mark Lister, a Queensland police officer whose duties include protecting the Governor-General. Excuse me, officer, can you help me? I've got an indictment from South Africa that names you...

MARK: There is my inspector, over there.

ROSS: But I'm getting ahead of myself. Let's rewind.

MONIQUE: I was born on 26 March 1977 and I was born at the War Memorial Hospital in Randwick. Sydney, Australia, of course.

ROSS: Monique's mother is from Thailand. Dad is South African. In the '70s they opened one of Sydney's first Thai restaurants.

MONIQUE: I started serving at the age of 4.5 in the restaurant and my job was to ask everyone if they were enjoying their meals.

ROSS: When Monique was eight, her parents divorced and her father, known to some as 'Mad Dog Eric', returned to South Africa where he opened a chain of colourful Thai restaurants called Cranks. At 21, she went over to join him. What did the job involve?

MONIQUE: Various things - running food here and there, mixing some drinks, doing accounting, being the face of the business. Sort of that stuff, yeah.

ROSS: Around the same time in the same restaurant a young mother, Betty Ketani, was working the kitchen. Did you know Betty Ketani?

MONIQUE: Yes. I remember that she was Dad's long-standing chef throughout all the restaurants. She was probably the best cook that Dad has ever had.

ROSS: Was she a nice lady?


ROSS: Did you bear her any ill will?

MONIQUE: Absolutely not.

ROSS: Did you ever confront her about money from Cranks going missing?

MONIQUE: Absolutely not.

ROSS: But the missing money was an issue and having a hand in accounting and being the face of the business, Monique knew all about it. Did there begin to be an issue of concern that money was going missing in the business?

MONIQUE: At some stage.

ROSS: What was the concern?

MONIQUE: That there seemed to be large amounts missing from my father's bank account.

ROSS: That missing money was soon followed by a missing person. In May 1999, Betty Ketani disappeared. Her children were left without a mother, her family was left without answers. What had happened to Betty? In 2000, Monique left South Africa to live in Thailand where she was briefly a singer in a rock band. Later, she returned to Australia and seven years ago joined Jetstar.

MONIQUE: It's my dream job. I'd jumped through hoops to get that job.

ROSS: She also became an official with the flight attendants' union.

MONIQUE: I have a pet hate for people being picked on. I really cannot stand it. I'm a big believer in equality, regardless of status.

ROSS: Monique became a whistleblower and testified before Parliament.

MONIQUE: I am here because I believe Jetstar uses unsafe rostering practices. These unsafe practices lead to fatigue which, in turn, increases the risk in flights that many in this room travel on.

ROSS: She was a high profile, high-flying hostie and union organiser.

MONIQUE: How are you feeling about everything? A bit nervous about everything?

ROSS: But last year, in this unassuming Johannesburg house, Monique's new life was hijacked by her past with the chance discovery of an astonishing typewritten confession letter hidden for 13 years.

MAN (READS): "Several people were abducted and tortured. Namely Tembud Shabalala, Betty Ketani and Endabed Bebi.

ROSS: From the letter, it appears that she is the mastermind behind everything that happened. For 11 years, Sharma Marshall rented this property to Conway Brown. Brown's a former private investigator who has now confessed to the crimes detailed in the letter. It was found when Sharma's husband, Verna, decided to replace the carpet. Where was it exactly?

VERNA: Right here where we are standing, the second block, third block when you lift it. Right here.

ROSS: The alleged author of the confession is Carrington Laughton, a former soldier, private investigator, president of the South African Nudist Federation and lover of fast cars. He was also Monique's lover.

MONIQUE: I have never denied that I'd dated Carrington Laughton.

ROSS: Nor has she denied knowing the men now facing trial, all friends of Laughton, most with a military or police background.

MONIQUE: They were all friends, they were a group of friends. That's all I know about it. I was introduced to them by my then-boyfriend.

ROSS: One of the accused men, Dirk Reinecke, has admitted that he helped in the initial kidnap of Betty Ketani, holding her here against her will in this hotel room, which he says was booked in Monique's name. He claims that both Monique and Carrington Laughton interrogated Betty here for several hours. Betty was taken to the hotel room where Monique was staying and she was questioned by both Monique and Carrington Laughton regarding the theft of money at Cranks. He says you were there when she was being interrogated.

MONIQUE: And I'm telling you I wasn't.

ROSS: Betty became extremely distraught with the questions and allegations and demanded to be taken home. Carrington refused and stated she will remain there until she provides answers. After several hours, Betty was released but later that month she was abducted again by two men. The letter names Queensland cop Mark Lister as one of them. Are you able to talk to me at all about whether you have met Mark Lister?

MONIQUE: I knew Mark Lister, yes, I did.

ROSS: What's he like?

MONIQUE: I'm not going to answer that question.

MAN (READS): "Betty Ketani was arrested by Mark and his friend, Warren Williams." Carrington instructed the accused to assist him and he pushed the person towards the accused. The accused realised that it was a short, female person and that her hands were tied behind her back. Carrington used a metal shaft similar to a knitting needle and stabbed the female person on the right side of her head or neck, causing her to drop to the ground. Carrington then immediately started walking towards his vehicle.

ROSS: Betty Ketani's killers dumped what they thought was her corpse just off the Joburg highway near this old Boer War blockhouse. But as Conway Brown has now confessed, a few weeks later he got a phone call from Carrington Laughton telling him Betty Ketani was not dead. The person they killed had, in fact, not died that night.

MAN (READS): "Three weeks later she surfaced and regained consciousness at Kopanong Hospital, suffering from mild brain damage and severe mental trauma."

ROSS: The gang didn't give up. Posing as medical staff, they went to the hospital and kidnapped Betty for a third time. According to the alleged Carrington Laughton confession, he and Monique followed the kidnap van to a lonely farm nearby where they locked Betty up in an old school bus. The confession claims that some time during the night Betty died, probably from shock. Their next job was to bury her body in the backyard of the same home where the confession letter was later found. A hole was dug directly behind the garage in the garden.

MEAN (READS): "Mark, Monique and Conway fetched the body and buried it in Conway's garden, behind his garage."

ROSS: Were you there?


MAN (READS): Monique suggested that cement be used to cover it, so animals cannot dig it up.

ROSS: Did you suggest that the body be covered with concrete so that neighbouring dogs...

MONIQUE: Oh, absolutely not, Ross. That is absurd, that is ridiculous.

MAN (READS): Her clothing and other shit was burnt by Mark, Monique and I.

ROSS: Multiple witnesses place you at scenes where you're allegedly orchestrating murder.

MONIQUE: Look, I can't answer on behalf of anyone else. The matter is subject to legal proceedings.

ROSS: Do you deny it?

MONIQUE: Deny what?

ROSS: Do you deny being a murderer?

MONIQUE: Absolutely, of course I do.

ROSS: But the backyard wasn't Betty's final resting place. The South African court has heard that three years later, fearing detection, members of the gang decided to dig up and move Betty's body. The killers admitted to throwing Betty Ketani's mortal remains away here at this Johannesburg landfill. As one of them admitted, she was cast away like a useless piece of rubbish. Compounding the suffering for Betty's family, her remains have never been found, covered as they were by over 10 years of waste.

CHILDREN: I was sad because I've got 13 years not knowing where she was. But in my heart, I know that she always loves me. No matter where she is, she always loved her children.

ROSS: Betty's family, brother, son and two daughters lived for over a decade with the uncertainty of hoping she was still alive yet fearing the worst.

CHILDREN: My mother was a loving mother. Every time she was around, everybody was happy.

ROSS: Did you have anything to do with the murder and abduction of Betty Ketani?

MONIQUE: No, absolutely not, Ross.

ROSS: This is the first time they've seen and heard from the woman accused of ordering the hit. How do you feel about the fact that she was murdered?

MONIQUE: Absolutely saddened. I think it's an absolutely tragic story.

DAUGHTER: She's lying.

ROSS: That is what you think?

DAUGHTER: I can see that she's lying.

ROSS: If you have the opportunity to ask Monique a question, what would you ask her?

DAUGHTER: Why did she murder my mum?

ROSS: Monique Neetesen-Lemkes isn't the only Australian sought by South African authorities. There's also Mark Lister. He is a former South African police reservist accused of being in the gang, allegedly run by Monique and her then-boyfriend, Carrington Laughton.

MONIQUE: I knew Mark Lister, yes, I did.

ROSS: What is he like?

MONIQUE: I'm not going to answer that question.

ROSS: And the Queensland Mounted Police escort. But Lister is now wanted by law enforcement in South Africa. But in Queensland, he is in law enforcement himself as a mounted policeman. On this night, his duty was protecting the Governor-General. There is an indictment here from the South African courts that says that you were involved in the kidnap of a women called Betty Ketani.

MARK: There's my inspector over there.

ROSS: I'm just giving you an opportunity to respond.

INSPECTOR: This is a private matter.

ROSS: It's not a private matter. It's a public matter. This is an indictment from the Johannesburg courts.

INSPECTOR: Obviously he doesn't want to make any comment right now.

ROSS: Is that true, officer, you don't want to make any comment? He didn't wish to speak. But the alleged confession letter of his former friend Carrington Laughton is peppered with references to Mark lister. The letter alleges his involvement in three abductions - Betty Ketani's and two others.

MARK: I have no comment to make at this time, thank you.

ROSS: Do you think it's appropriate that somebody who has been implicated in the kidnap and the disposal of a murder victim should be involved in the protection of a representative of Her Majesty the Queen?

INSPECTOR: He's answered no comment. He has said he doesn't want to make any comment.

ROSS: While we were in South Africa, there was a dramatic turn of events. So, in this morning's hearing, three of the co-accused have rolled. They have agreed to become witnesses for the state. And they're pointing the finger firmly at Monique and the Queensland policeman, Mark Lister. You're up against a pretty formidible series of allegations because we were there the day that Conway Brown - Brown, Lister. They all sat there. They all signed their plea agreements. They confessed. And they all said they would give evidence against you and Queensland policeman, Mark Lister who they also implicated in the crimes. How do you feel about that?

MONIQUE: I feel very saddened and disgusted that two Australians have been loaded with all sorts of colourful and imaginative allegations just because we're some 6,500 air miles away and not there to defend ourselves.

ROSS: Why not go back to South Africa and defend yourself? If you are innocent, why not go back and clear your name?

MONIQUE: Is that like a trick question?

ROSS: No, I'm serious.

MONIQUE: I've been tried in the media already. I'll never get a fair trial.

ROSS: Can she get a fair trial? In South Africa, could she get a fair trial?

DAVID GALBALLY: If the sort of publicity is being visited upon her by other outlets, then I've got grave concerns as to whether she could get a fair trial.

ROSS: Monique's Australian lawyer, David Galbally suggests that the men who have testified against her are blaming Monique to save themselves.

DAVID: I think many people would say anything to get themselves out of a situation of facing a lengthy jail sentence for a crime if they could do a deal. We all know what the political and judicial system in South Africa is like. It is not as pure or as clean as our system. So I'll say no more other than that.

ROSS: Carrington Laughton denies he is the author of the alleged confession letter that lead to the arrests of all the men. The letter that was discovered in this modest Joburg home. When the police came and saw your evidence, were they shocked?

VERNA: They actually - they were not.