Part I - Missing Children

Passi Magazine , Spring 2007

TEXT -  Charlene Stanley

PHOTO -  Alex Kilbee

Danie’s story is almost unbelievable. Almost.  One of those stories that have you on the edge of your seat.  And which have you waiting for the punch line.  The “never-mind-I-was-just-pulling-your-leg” part.  You wait for it. But it never comes.  What does come is more and more people confirming the story.  And more and more tests proving it.

You hear it and you see it. Yet you still wonder:

How on earth is it possible?

It has always been Danie’s ambition to be either a missionary or a policeman.  After finishing school he joins the South African Police Service in Kimberley.  Later he completes a brief stint in the Anti-Occult Unit.  In 1997 he is appointed Director of Protection Services at the Central University of Technology, Free State (then known as the Technikon Free State) in Bloemfontein.  He becomes involved with a group of developers researching mineral mining, using existing technology and developing it further to locate gold, diamonds, iron ore and even oil below ground.  Danie is almost exclusively responsible for all the research, the group, the funding.  They make some exciting breakthroughs.  But something still bothers Danie.  During his stint in the police he saw too much.  Too many times he had to break the news to parents that their child was dead.  His passion for fighting crime has not dwindled simply because he is no longer a member of the police.  An idea starts to form in his head.  Small at first.  And later ever more urgent.

What if this equipment could be used to find people…?

And then an unexpected catalyst.  A student from Sandton is kidnapped in broad daylight.  Just before her twenty-first birthday.  Her parents make an emotional plea on television.  Can anybody tell us where our child is…?

Days later her body is found in the bushes near the Walkerville tollgate.  Danie has never met Leigh Matthews.  But her disappearance and horrific death perturb him.  The fact that the entire country was searching for her.  And nobody could do anything.  That night is a turning point for Danie.  He looks down at his sleeping son.  And thinks of all the heartbreak that could be prevented if only missing children could be located.  The mineral-locating apparatus analyses a sample of a material in order to locate the mother-lode.  Why couldn’t the same be done with a human being?

On the spur of the moment he cuts off a piece of his son’s hair.  And gets to work.  Praying all the way.  Some time in the early morning hours comes the breakthrough.  On the basis of the hair sample the equipment shows him the location of his sleeping son.  At first only from a distance of five metres. Later ten. Then fifty.

He starts refining his equipment and procedures.  Uses some of his colleagues as guinea pigs.  One of them is Dawie van Dyk.  He allows Danie to take a hair sample from him and, as part of the test, hides away in a cemetery.  Every time the equipment succeeds in locating him.  A few months later Dawie is on a business trip to the Victoria Falls in Zimbabwe.  He phones Danie, telling him only that he’s somewhere in Africa.  Danie plots his location accurately.

His guinea pigs are dumbfounded.  They are at a loss to explain his results.  But they also cannot deny them.

Then, a few unplanned tests:

The daughter of one of his colleagues runs away from home.  Worried sick, her father contacts Danie.  He has heard about his success in this area.

Can he help?

Danie asks for the missing child’s hairbrush.  He analyses a few of the hairs left in the brush.  Then he takes readings at two different spots in the city.  At the point where his two “search lines” cross is where he starts looking.  He identifies an approximate two-block area in a southern suburb.  In his car he slowly drives up and down these streets. And sees a young girl walking towards him… One and a half hours after taking the hair sample he returns his colleague’s daughter to her overjoyed father.

The news spreads quickly.  He receives calls from more and more people begging him to find their children, family members – even dogs.

He also starts becoming involved in police investigations.  At the end of 2004 he helps the police to find a murder suspect by means of some beard stubble found on a razor blade.

Danie is quick to explain that the apparatus does not have a 100% success rate.  Just like a cellular phone sometimes experiences network problems or a computer sometimes “hangs”, this technology is also not problem-free.

It is also often difficult to find an undisputed hair sample, especially in cases where several people are living in one house.  And where children use the same brushes and combs.  And then there is the human factor.  He might take an inaccurate reading.  Or make a calculation error.

Meanwhile the pile of testimonials on the equipment’s success continues to grow.  But so does the criticism.  Mostly from scientists.

The device becomes the subject of two investigative actuality television programmes – first Third Degree and later Carte Blanche.

Both programmes set Danie their own series of tests.  And in each case he receives positive results.  The Minister of Safety and Security is approached for comment.  And on national television Charles Nqakula says that his department considers Danie’s tracking apparatus to be one of the most important anti-crime inventions ever to be developed in South Africa.  He reveals that they conducted some tests with Danie and that they are convinced that the apparatus is credible.

The two programmes elicit a flood-wave of reaction.  People are astonished.  They swamp Danie with calls.  Hopeful and sceptical at the same time.  On scientific and scepticism websites the criticism is sharp and profuse.  Bloggers call him an opportunist. And worse.  Accuse him of seeking to rewrite all the rules of biology, physics and chemistry.  Danie has a standard response to such criticism: “Look at my results”.

And he reminds his critics that the most significant inventions through the ages have almost always initially been dismissed outright.  That twenty years ago, the idea of something like a cellular phone also sounded like a far-fetched dream.  For those who accuse him of clairvoyance and all sorts of metaphysical methods he has a direct answer: He is a practising and outspoken born-again Christian.  And what he is doing is pure science.  “I am not a trained scientist.  But I believe that the Lord has blessed me with the knowledge of something that really works”.

How the tracking equipment actually works is something that Danie will never reveal.  He allows nobody to film or even see his equipment.  All he will say is that DNA analysis is done, satellite technology is utilised, and the crux of his method lies in a constant, high-quality energy source.  His reason for such secrecy is simple:  The technology could easily end up in the wrong hands and could be used for totally unethical and criminal purposes.  In monetary terms it is, of course, also worth a fortune.

His invention is taking its toll on Danie.  He is simply unable to help everyone who approaches him with a request for assistance.  Not all of his searches have a happy ending.  He was quick to realise that if one starts searching more than 48 hours after a disappearance, a dead body is usually what one finds.  Coming across a dead body, he finds it traumatic to be confronted with the pain and fear that the person must have experienced in his or her final moments.

Early in 2007 an international company buys the intellectual property rights to the invention from Danie and his partners.  The plan is for this company to further refine and develop the technology in hopes that a user-friendly version can eventually be put to use in police stations.

Danie has learned a lot during the past three years.  “I have learned that your greatest passion can become your greatest burden.  And that the Lord is always there for you even when others may doubt you.”

Thinking outside the box has become a way of life for him.  And he is already busy researching a brand-new concept.  “After all, one only uses 10% of one’s brain.  This means that everything we know now can work nine times better.  What we know of now is not all that is out there.  There is nine times more.”

It almost sounds unbelievable.  Almost.

Deel I - Verlore kinders

Passi Tydskrif , Lente 2007

TEKS -  Charlene Stanley

FOTO -  Alex Kilbee

Danie se storie is amper ongelooflik. Amper. Een van daardie stories war jou vasgenael laat luister. En jou laat wag vir die punch line. Die "toemaar-ek-het-sommer jou-been-getrek" deel. Jy wag daarvoor. Maar dit kom nie. Wat wel kom, is meer en meer mense wat die storie bevestig. En meer en meer toetse wat dit bewys.

Jy hoor dit en jy sien dit. En jy wonder nog steeds:

Hoe op aarde is dit moontlik?

Danie Krugel het van kleins of geweet hy wil eendag 'n sendeling of 'n polisieman word. Na skool sluit by aan by die Polisie in Kimberley. Later maak by vinnig opgang in die Anti-Okkulte Eenheid. ln 1997 word hy Direkteur Beskermingsdienste by die Sentrale Universiteit vir Tegnologie in Bloemfontein. Hy raak betrokke by 'n groep ontwikkelaars wat navorsing doen oor mineraalontginning. Hulle gebruik bestaande tegnologie en ontwikkel dit verder om goud, diamante, ystererts, selfs olie ondergronds op to spoor. Danie doen amper uitsluitlikdie navorsing. Die groep, die befondsing. Hulle maak opwindende deurbrake. Maar iets bly krap aan Danie. In sy tyd in die Polisie het hy net te veel gesien. Moes hy so veel keer aan ouers die nuus van 'n dooie kind breek. Sy passie om terug te veg teen misdaad het nie verflou net omdat hy die Polisie verlaat het nie. 'n Gedagte begin by hom groei. Eers klein. Later al hoe dringender.

Wat as hierdie toerusting gebruik kan word om mense op to spoor...?

Toe 'n onverwagse katalisator. 'n Student van Sandton word helder oordag ontvoer. Net voor haar een-en-twintigste verjaarsdag. Haar ouers lewer 'n emosionele pleidooi op televisie. Kan iemand ons sê waar ons kind is ...?

Dae later word haar liggaam in die veld naby die Walkerville tolhek gevind. Danie ken vir Leigh Matthews van geen kant of nie. Maar haar verdwyning en grusame dood gryp hom aan. Die feit dat die hele land na haar help soek het. En niemand kon help nie. Die aand is 'n keerpunt vir Danie. Hy staan by sy slapende seun. En dink aan al die hartseer wat voorkom kon word as mens vermiste kinders kan opspoor. Die mineraalopsporingsapparaat analiseer 'n monster van 'n stof om die groter massa op te spoor. Hoekom kan dit nie dieselfde met 'n mens doen nie?

Op die ingewing van die oomblik sny hy 'n stukkie van sy seun se hare af. En begin werk. Al biddende. Êrens in die vroeë oggendure kom die deurbraak. Op grond van die haarmonster wys die toerusting hom waar sy slapende seun is. Eers is dit net op'n afstand van vyf meter. Later Lien. Later vyftig.

Hy begin sy toerusting en werkswyse verfyn. Gebruik van sy kollegas as proefkonyne. Een van hulle is Dawie van Dyk. Hy laat toe dat Danie 'n haarmonster van hom neem en kruip as deel van 'n toets in 'n begraafplaas weg. Elke keer spoor die apparaat hom op. 'n Paar maande later is Dawie op 'n werksbesoek by die Victoria Valle in Zimbabwe. Hy bel Danie, se net hy's iewers in Afrika. Danie plot hom akkuraat.

Sy proefkonyne is verbyster. Hulle kan sy resultate nie verklaar nie. Maar kan dit ook nie ontken nie.

Dan, `n paar onbeplande toetse:

Een van sy kollegas se dogter loop van die huis af weg. Rasend van bekommernis kontak hy vir Danie. Hy het gehoor van sy suksesse.

Kan hy help?

Danie vra 'n haarborsel van die vermiste kind. Hy doen 'n analise van 'n paar hare. Dan neem by lesings van twee verskillende punte in die stad. Waar sy twee "soeklyne'' kruis, is waar by begin soek. Die area wat by bepaal is omtrent twee blokke in 'n suidelike woonbuurt. Hy begin stadig die strate deurkruis in sy motor. En sien 'n meisie van voor aangestap kom ... 'n Uur en 'n half nadat by die haarmonster geneem het, besorg hy sy kollega se dogter terug aan haar oorstelpte pa.

Die nuus versprei vinnig. Al hoe meer mense begin hom bel om kinders, familielede - selfs honde - op to spoor.

Hy begin ook by polisie-ondersoeke betrokke raak. Aan die einde van 2004 help hy die polisie om'n moordverdagte op to spoor met behulp van hare wat op 'n skeermeslem gevind is.

Danie is gou om te verduidelik dat die apparaat se suksessyfer nie 100 % is nie. Soos wat 'n selfoon soms netwerkprobleme kry, 'n rekenaar sours "hang', so is hierdie tegnologie nie probleemvry nie.

Dis ook dikwels moeilik om 'n onbetwisbare haarmonster to kry. veral waar baie mense in een huis bly. En kinders dieselfde borsels en kamme gebruik. Dan's daar ook die menslike faktor. Hy kan 'n lesing verkeerd neem. Of  'n berekeningsfout maak.

Intussen groei die hopie getuigskrifte van die apparaat. Maar ook die kritiek. Meestal van wetenskaplikes.

Dietoestelword die onderwerp van twee ondersoekende aktualiteitstelevisieprogramme - eers Third Degree en later Carte Blanche.

Albei programme stel hulle eie reeks toetse aan Danie. En in elke geval kry hy 'n positiewe resultaat. Die Minister van Veiligheid en Sekuriteit word genader vir kommentaar. En op nasionale televisie se Charles Nqakula dat sy department Danie se opsporingsapparaat as een van die belangrikste anti-misdaad uitvindsels beskou wat nog in Suid-Afrika ontwikkel is. Hy onthul dat hulle saam met Danie toetse gedoen het en tevrede is dat die toestel geloofwaardig is.

'n Vloedgolf reaksie volg op die twee programme. Mense is verstom. Oorval Danie met versoeke. Hoopvol en skepties te gelyk. Op wetenskaplike en skeptisisme webwerwe is die kritiek oorvloedig en venynig. Bloggers noem hom 'n kansvatter. En erger. Beskuldig hom dat by alle reëls van die biologie, fisika en chemie wil herskryf. Danie se reaksie op die kritiek is standaard: "Kyk na my resultate”.

En om sy kritici daaraan to herinner dat die grootste uitvindings deur die eeue amper almal aanvanklik eers summier afgeskiet is. Dat die idee van iets sees 'n selfoon twintig jaar terug ook geklink het soos 'n vergesogte droom. Vir die wat hom verdink van waarsêery en allerhande metafisiese metodes net by 'n reguit antwoord: Hy is 'n uitgesproke, wedergebore Christen. En wat by doen is suiwer wetenskap. "Ek is nie'n opgeleide wetenskaplike nie. Maar ek glo die Here het my geseën met die kennis van iets wat regtig werk”.

Hoe die opsporingsapparaat presies werk is lets wat Danie nooit onthul nie. Hy laat niemand toe om sy toerusting to verfilm of selfs to sien nie. Al wat by verklap is dat DNA ontledings gedoen word, satelliet tegnologie ingespan word, en dat die kruks van sy metode berus op 'n konstante, hoe kwaliteit energiebron. Sy rede vir die geheimhouding is eenvoudig: Die tegnologie kan maklik in die verkeerde hande beland. Wat dit vir heeltemal onetiese en misdadige doeleindes kan gebruik. Dit is in geldterme uiteraard ook bale waardevol.

Sy uitvinding eis sy tol op Danie. Hy kan eenvoudig nie almal help wat hom nader nie. Nie al sy soektogte het 'n gelukkige einde nie. Hy kom gou agter as mens langer as 48 uur na die verdwyning begin soek, jy gewoonlik by 'n dooie liggaam eindig. Om telkens gekonfronteer to word met die emosies wat die mense wat by soek moes ervaar in hulle laaste oomblikke, is vir hom traumaties.

Vroeg in 2007 verkoop by en sy vennote die intellektuele goedereregte van die uitvindsel aan 'n internasionale maatskappy. Die plan is dat hulle die tegnologie verder sal verfyn en ontwikkel. En die hoop is dat'n gebruikersvriendelike weergawe uiteindelik in polisiekantore geimplementeer sal word.

Vir Danie was die afgelope drie jaar 'n geweldige leerskool. "Ek het geleer dat jou grootste passie jou grootste kruis kan word. En dat die Here jou dra as mense in jou twyfel."

Om buite die kassie to dink het vir hom'n leefwyse geword. En hy's klaar besig met navorsing oor 'n splinternuwe konsep. "'n Mens gebruik immers net 10 % van jou brein. Dit beteken dat alles wat ons nou ken, nege keer beter kan werk. Wat ons nou van weet is nie al wat daar is nie. Daar is nege keer meer."

Dit klink amper ongelooflik. Amper.