Private Investigator Christian Botha will find whatever it is you are hiding.
By Amalie Niland
Mike Hammer himself never had as much fun as local PI Christian Botha. But unlike the American television detective, Mr Botha is not in it for the fame and fortune but because his heart requires him to. “Words cannot describe the look on a mother’s face when I have found her runaway child.”
Mr Botha hit the headlines following the penguin massacre at the East London aquarium when he offered his services free of charge to catch the
culprits. Rumours were rife that he was subsequently hired by Special Assignment to investigate the matter. “This is not entirely true. Yes I am now mandated by Special Assignment after they approached me but I am still investigating the case free of charge. Why? Because I often take my children to the aquarium, it is their favorite place and when I saw what happened to the penguins and pelicans it made my stomach turn. I wanted to help, simple as that.”
To work for nothing is not new to this PI. As he said himself ” I will never be a rich man because I feel so immensely sorry for people. Some of my clients are dirt poor and cannot afford to pay.” Mr Botha has been in the headlines on many occasions including when he found missing teenager Shaun de Wet who ran away to Port Elizabeth two years ago. Shaun’s parents were frantic with worry. “I lived with the street children in Port Elizabeth for days to track him down” which he eventually did eight months after Shaun disappeared. “I had to find him for his parents sake.” He did not charge the family a cent.
He tracked down Clarendon High School teenagers Erika Wertlen and Jayne Reeves after they disappeared from their homes in 1999. Within days he brought them back from Observatory in Cape Town where they were staying with a man called Caspian Carter (not his real name) with whom they had run away.
He also exposed a Liberian National who tricked people into buying fake American dollars. The mysteries he has solved in his six-year career are endless.
Mr Botha was on the verge of leaving school in standard eight, but was persuaded by a Colonel Nienaber from the South African Police Force to finish matric. After he matriculated at Umtata High School he applied to become a member of the SAPS but failed to meet their requirements. “They said I was too aggressive in my approach.” He voluntarily joined the South African Defense Force. As a former Transkei resident he was not required by law to do his two-year army training. Once in the army he became a dog handler. “That was one of the proudest moments of my life.”
His skills in dog training would later serve him well when he met a wealthy businessman who was so impressed by Mr Botha that he gave him a R20 000 cheque to set up his PI business.
After leaving the army he landed a job at the security division of Sun International and became the youngest security manager in the Sun International Group. He worked in Gaborone for three months before being deported because of political unrest and later at Fish River Sun where he acted as bodyguard for local celebrities like Miss South Africa. “Diane Tilton-Davis was stunning but Michelle Bruce was an absolute riot. She was the nicest Miss SA of the lot.”
He left for England in 1994 where he per chance saw an advertisement in TNT Magazine offering a private investigator course by three former private investigators. “This was the real thing, not sitting in lecture rooms and someone blabbing in the front. We had to do real case scenarios, solve a mystery without using a phone. It was the most interesting year of my life.”
To make ends meet during the training course he joined Opus Protection Services and was stationed as a guard at the upmarket Dolphin Square complex in London where he worked alongside Her Majesty’s Protection Service.
“Princess Anne was staying in the building and we sometimes had to escort her from her door to the complex entrance while the Protection Service people were scuttling around checking all the cameras.” Although they were taught etiquette in the presence of a royal, his nerves deserted him at the first sight of the Princess. “I blurted out ‘howzit Ma’m.” Fortunately she found it amusing.
During his travels in England he also worked for Granada Sterling who provided security at special events such as The David Copperfield Show and Holiday on Ice. He was called back by Sun International in 1995 but only worked for them for six months. ‘I had to follow my dream and become a private investigator.” After freelancing in Port Elizabeth for a while he returned to East London where he started his company in a park home with only a cell phone. Then he met a wealthy businessman while giving obedience classes to his dogs for extra cash.
The rest as they say is history. His client base includes well-known insurance companies, banks and international insurance companies. And then of course the clients who would like to get the dirt on their cheating spouses and the sort of things you see in the movies. “It happens almost just like that, except there is tons of boring paperwork involved.” Something you will never see Mike Hammer do.