Until dusk began to fall across the vast Kaross estate in Namibia, February 27 had been like any other summer Saturday.
Owned by British technology multi-millionaire Harvey Boulter, the estate covers 65 square miles of remote grassland and bush and has been described as ‘an absolute game paradise’, home to animals including lions, leopards, rhinos, elephants and giraffes.
Boulter, 51, had spent the afternoon holding court at a spit-roast lamb barbecue in the shade of a camelthorn tree in the main compound – a sprawling complex with a four-bedroom guest house, eight chalets for estate staff, a large indoor dining hall and the businessman’s own home with private swimming pool.
Sitting on canvas loungers, shooting the breeze and drinking cans of lager were his guests: an American (whom the Mail has agreed not to name) and four members of the Van Wyk family who worked for Boulter. Over the years, estate manager Gerhard, 54, his wife, Alta, also 54, their son Gerhard Jr and his new wife, Liani, both 25, had become close friends with their employer.
Until about 7.30pm, witnesses agree, everything seemed peaceful. ‘Super calm,’ Boulter says in his first public utterance on the tragedy that would later unfold. ‘A group of friends hanging out and talking the usual bull****. I don’t know what went wrong, what started it, and I ask myself that question 10,000 times every day.’
The details of what followed are hotly disputed but could result in Boulter being jailed for life for the murder of his estate manager Gerhard van Wyk Sr, a South African Army veteran.
British millionaire Harvey Boulter, 51, is facing life in prison over the fatal shooting of his estate manager Gerhard van Wyk Sr, 54, in Namibia on February 27. (Pictured L – R) Victim’s son Gerhard van Wyk Junior, victim’s widow Alta van Wyk, Harvey Boulter, and gun victim Gerhard van Wyk Senior
It has been reported that there was a row over an ‘indecent proposal’ allegedly made by Boulter to a female guest – more of which later. Van Wyk sustained a gunshot wound to his abdomen and died en route to the regional hospital more than 100 miles away.
The fatal shooting made news around the world. Boulter, whose fortune is rooted in a series of deals with the Ministry of Defence, is a well-known and controversial figure who has lived in Hong Kong, Dubai and the US.
For the media, there were intriguing elements, too, of the infamous 1941 murder in Kenya of the Earl of Erroll that shone a spotlight on the ‘White Mischief’ life of wealthy, philandering expats.
Released on bail last month after a hearing in the town of Outjo, 116 miles from his estate, Boulter – who had initially been jailed but was in hospital before his release – has made no statement until now. But today, in an exclusive interview with the Daily Mail, he breaks his silence – and insists that he is innocent.
Van Wyk’s death, he claims, was a tragic accident that traumatised him. The Mail has also obtained legal documents, revealed here for the first time, and spoken to key witnesses.
Ultimately, the matter will be resolved by Namibia’s legal system. The country’s chief prosecutor will decide next month whether to put Boulter on trial for murder.
In the meantime, Boulter wants the world to know there is a case for the defence. ‘Gerhard was one of my closest friends – I regarded him as family and I’m devastated by his loss,’ he says. ‘Right now, I’m in the fight of my life. But I believe evidence will emerge that will show the truth.’
Boulter is no stranger to publicity. In 2011, when he was living in Dubai, he revealed that then defence secretary Dr Liam Fox had been travelling the world with his friend (and best man at his wedding) Adam Werritty.
Werritty had been present at a business meeting between Fox and Boulter purporting to be a government adviser when he was nothing of the kind. The resulting furore forced Fox to resign.
Later, Boulter funded a Ukip candidate to the tune of £30,000 to stand against Fox in his North Somerset constituency, while Fox sued Boulter for libel over remarks he’d made in a TV interview and for questioning his integrity. The case was settled before trial in 2014 and Boulter had to apologise and pay Fox damages and legal costs.
At this time, Boulter’s company, Porton Group, had become vastly successful adapting and marketing civilian applications for new defence technology developed by the MoD labs at Porton Down.
In 2016, Boulter moved from Dubai with his family – his ex-wife Leonorah and their three children – to Washington DC, where his main focus was encrypted communications. (The couple had divorced the previous year.)
He had bought the Kaross estate in 2012 – it is now worth ‘between £10million and £20million’ – and employed the Van Wyks to manage it. After the breakdown of his marriage, Kaross become his main home. ‘Whatever happens, I want to stay in Namibia,’ he says. ‘I have the right to permanent residency and it’s a beautiful country with a people I love.’
Boulter is no stranger to publicity. In 2011, when he was living in Dubai, he revealed that then defence secretary Dr Liam Fox (pictured) had been travelling the world with his friend Adam Werritty. The resulting furore forced Fox to resign.
The Mail has obtained a transcript of Boulter’s bail hearing, which was held over several days in May in the magistrate’s court in Outjo, a town of some 8,500 people. Gerhard van Wyk Sr’s sister-in-law Nerina de Jagger gave evidence and told the court Boulter and the Van Wyk family had shared ‘a very special bond’.
She added: ‘It is eight and a half years they lived and worked on the farm together and they built something truly special. They went from being employer/employee, but then outside of that relationship developed a very beautiful kinship… they shared and lived on that farm as a family – they had a lot of respect for Mr Boulter and they loved him very dearly.’
As De Jagger said in court, Boulter paid – and is still paying – for the Van Wyks’ daughter Michelle to study veterinary science. He also employed Gerhard Jr – whom Boulter says he regarded ‘almost as my own adopted son’ – and when he married his high school girlfriend Liani last year, Boulter found a job for her, too, and paid for their three-week luxury honeymoon. At the time of the shooting, he was building them a house at Kaross.
Maybe this bond explains why De Jagger told the court that the family had asked her to say they supported Boulter’s release on bail. By the time of the hearing, the tycoon had been in custody for almost three months.
They would dearly like to move on with their lives and start the healing process and they do feel that to deny bail would just exponentiate [sic] the tragedy and the feelings and the trauma around this case,’ De Jagger said.
It is clearly a complex case. So what exactly happened that night, according to Boulter and others present? By 7.30pm, the party around the barbecue had finished with the lamb, according to domestic servant Claudia Kaross. ‘I went out and asked if they’d like dessert,’ she told the Mail. ‘Harvey said, “Yes, please bring it”, so I went to tell the chef. There was no sign of anything wrong. It was perfect.’
Chef Raymond Thourob had made a carrot cake. ‘From the kitchen, I could hear their conversation,’ he says. ‘I was only a few yards from the barbecue tree. I suddenly sensed the atmosphere was tense. I heard their voices getting louder. [Gerhard Jr] was throwing insulting words and then the father [Gerhard Sr] was too.’
According to subsequent newspaper reports, Boulter had made an indecent proposal – that in return for the house he was building for Gerhard Jr and his bride, she should sleep with him. Boulter utterly refutes this claim.
Neighbours: It has been reported that there was a row over an ‘indecent proposal’ allegedly made by Boulter to Liani – that in return for the house he was building for Gerhard Jr and his bride, she should sleep with him. Pictured: Gerhard Jr and wife Liani with Jutte Harten
Thourob and Kaross insist they did not hear this comment. ‘Mr Harvey would never in his life say something like this,’ Thourob said. ‘He had the utmost respect for [Gerhard Jr] and Liani.’
This might be dismissed simply as a show of loyalty from two members of staff still employed by Boulter. But to date, say legal sources in Namibia, no allegation that Boulter asked Liani for sex has been made in any legal document.
According to local police officers, speaking on condition of anonymity, ‘we only learnt about this sex for rent claim from the newspapers – we can’t comment on it at all’.
What, then, does Boulter say was the trigger for the violence? Apparently it was his suggestion that when the new home was finished, he should organise food for a housewarming party, at which Gerhard Jr seemed to take umbrage – it is hardly an adequate explanation. Boulter also denies press reports that he had been drinking heavily that evening. Boulter’s own statement at the bail hearing says there was an ‘unexpected and unforeseen altercation involving Gerhard Jr and myself. During and/or immediately after the altercation Gerhard Sr joined the scuffle, attacking me. This astonished me as I had no idea, nor could I comprehend, what triggered this.’
Claudia Kaross’s account is more dramatic: ‘I heard screaming. At first I thought it was baboons.’
By the time she emerged from the kitchen, Gerhard Jr had hit Boulter in the face – and was being restrained on the ground by the American guest who is a Special Forces veteran. His father then intervened. ‘When I went out, I saw Gerhard Sr hit Harvey in the face,’ Kaross says. ‘I was so shocked. It was like a nightmare.’
Boulter was wearing a Sig Sauer P320 9mm pistol in a holster on his belt. Explaining why he felt the need to have a gun at a barbecue with friends, Boulter says: ‘This is a very remote area and the farms are not particularly safe. There have been a lot of armed robberies.’
Indeed, Boulter’s private security chief Shaun Links told the Mail there have been two attempted robberies at Kaross since the night of the shooting – including one in which an estate worker had to be rescued after being taken hostage.
Boulter’s neighbour Jutte Harten, who lives five miles away, concurs: ‘I live alone and my weapons are always close. When I go to bed, my guns are next to me. The pandemic means a lot of people are out of work. They will kill you for ten dollars. Gerhard Sr once told me: “Always have a gun under the table – just in case someone comes.”’
For whatever reason, Boulter drew his weapon from its holster.
Deadly: Van Wyk Senior sustained a gunshot wound to his abdomen and died en route to the regional hospital more than 100 miles away. Boulter insists that he is innocent and the death, he claims, was a tragic accident that traumatised him. Pictured: A Sig Sauer P320 9mm pistol
According to his statement, although stunned by the blows from the Van Wyks, he moved his pistol ‘to a pre-defensive position, flat to the front of my body, holding the grip with my right hand and covering the front of the barrel with my left hand. At no time did I physically fight back as I had both hands holding on to the firearm.
‘Sometime during this incident, I believe whilst Gerhard Sr was in the process of grabbing the pistol, a shot went off. I do not understand how this happened as I had no intention for the firearm to discharge or anybody to be hurt, including myself.’ Exactly how the shot was fired will be for the courts to determine. Kaross says she witnessed the struggle and ‘after a short time the gun went off’.
The bullet passed through Boulter’s left palm, which also absorbed most of the blast from the muzzle, causing an injury from which he bled heavily. ‘Extreme pain struck me and I entered a state of emergency shock,’ his statement says.
The bullet then entered Gerhard Sr’s abdomen and exited from his back. It was clear that he needed medical attention but he was able to get into his Toyota Land Cruiser parked nearby and drive to the main estate garage. He and the rest of his family then got into an Audi 4×4, driven by his son.
At this stage, Boulter says, established protocol would have been to phone for an ambulance at a clinic at the nearest town, Kamanjab, 20 miles away. ‘It would have come out and met them halfway,’ he adds. ‘He would have been seen by trained paramedics very quickly. We’d done this before – for example, for a woman who almost chopped off her hand in an accident.’
Instead, inexplicably to Boulter, the Van Wyks decided to drive to the hospital in Outjo, almost six times as far, in pitch darkness on a road where crossings by wild animals were an ever-present hazard.
Did this cost Gerhard Sr his life? For now, it is impossible to say, but the delay in getting treatment cannot have helped his prospects.
According to the autopsy report, he had ‘systemic visceral pallor’ – in other words, he had lost a lot of blood. It is arguable that had he been seen by paramedics, emergency treatment could have bought him time.
Boulter says he called the police and they found him in his house, his bleeding hand wrapped in a towel. He was taken to the jail in Outjo and held in a small cell with 20 other prisoners.
There, his wound became badly infected. Still guarded and in custody, he was transferred to a series of hospitals, first in Outjo and later in Namibia’s capital, Windhoek.
He had five operations, including three to cut out the rapidly spreading infection and one to restore his palm with skin grafts from his stomach. While being treated, Boulter says he also contracted Covid.
He claims he has suffered profound psychological symptoms in the aftermath of the incident. Charine Glen-Spyron, a clinical psychologist who runs Namibia’s only private mental health clinic, told the Mail she has been treating Boulter since the shooting.
‘In custody, he was getting panic attacks so severe his blood pressure went up to 260/180, which would make him black out – sometimes as often as four times a day. He was taking eight different medications,’ she says.
‘He still has post-traumatic stress disorder. Making sense of what happened is hard for him, though he is starting to improve.’
After the hearing in May, the Outjo magistrate refused bail. Boulter appealed to the Namibian High Court and last month was freed on bail of £25,000. He is now living in a rented house in Windhoek.
Meanwhile, despite the pending trial, Gerhard Sr’s wife has instructed Dentons, a law firm in Johannesburg, and is seeking a payment from Boulter of 55million Namibian dollars – about £2.7million. Their letter says this would be ‘in full and final settlement’ of all claims the family might make against Boulter for Gerhard Sr’s death, but would not require any admission of liability.
Boulter has refused.
I asked Dentons’s senior partner Vanessa Jacklin-Levin whether this risked undermining Alta Van Wyk’s testimony, by opening the way to suggestions she had a pecuniary motive. She replied by email: ‘None of those discussions in our view have any bearing or relevance to the pending criminal trial.’
Alleged remarks by Alta Van Wyk have given rise to a further layer of complexity – not least that she contradicts a key plank of the prosecution’s case.
Although she did not give evidence at the bail hearing, Alta Van Wyk was present. Boulter’s psychologist Glen-Spyron and Engel Nawatiseb, a former government deputy trade minister who knows the Van Wyks, have given sworn statements saying they saw and heard her talking to her sister, Nerina de Jagger, outside the court.
At the bail hearing, the prosecution said the strongest evidence that the shooting amounted to murder was that before the gun went off, Boulter was not holding it across his chest, as he claims, but pointing it at Gerhard Sr’s head. This, it was claimed, came from a statement by Alta van Wyk. Boulter vehemently denies it and, according to Glen-Spyron and Nawatiseb, the allegation seemed to leave Alta distraught. Nawatiseb told the Mail: ‘She kept saying, “I never said this, it’s just not true.”’
Glen-Spyron added: ‘She was really upset. She told her sister a number of times that the claim wasn’t accurate and that she wanted to make a new statement. She kept saying: “He didn’t point the gun at [Gerhard Sr’s] head.”’
Asked about this on Alta van Wyk’s behalf, her lawyer Jacklin-Levin said she could not comment.
Resolving this and other issues is likely to take a long time: if the Namibian prosecutor decides to proceed with the trial, it is unlikely to take place until the end of next year.
Alone in his house in Windhoek, Harvey Boulter can only wait. ‘Everyone is suffering,’ he says. ‘I pray that eventually we all find some sort of peace.’
And, he might add, a final and truthful version of what happened that fateful night.