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Protea Boekhuis

@ Sunday Times Books LIVE

Chris Marnewick Investigates a 1950s Murder Case in Clarence van Buuren

Clarence van Buuren Knew the Words But Not the MusicProtea releases Clarence van Buuren: Knew the Words But Not the Music, the English translation of Clarence van Buuren: Die man agter die donkerbril, this month:

In 1957 Clarence Gordon van Buuren was convicted of the murder of Myrna Joy Aken and executed. He denied murdering her up to the very end.

A young boy, Chris Marnewich, read the details in the newspaper and he had nightmares about them: Why was Van Buuren hanged if he had maintained his innocence?

The case was sensational for several reasons:

  • It was alleged that a clairvoyant found the body after a séance
  • There were indications of a sexual relationship between Van Buuren and Aken
  • There was the crude sexual mutilation of the corpse

The press leapt at the sensation: Women queued outside the court in long lines, trampling each other when the doors opened. Van Buuren enjoyed the attention and he flirted with them during the entire hearing.

Despite all the attention focussed on the case, the author found that the evidence led in court simply was the tip of the iceberg. The police dossier revealed so much more. Information indicated that Van Buuren was a narcissistic psychopath, a sadist who battered women. He was an emotional vampire and a sadistic sex murderer. Or was he? None of this was mentioned in the court case, nor in the newspapers.

When Marnewick decided to reinvestigate the case, the case record had disappeared. Eventually Marnewick tracked it down.

Today, more than 60 years after the murder, we are in a position to relive the crime through Marnewick’s legal eye. The book tells the story of the murder, but it also traces Marnewick’s own journey with the book.

About the author

Chris Marnewick has retired as a senior advocate in Durban. His first book on crime was Shepherds & Butchers and for that he was shortlisted for the M-Net Literary Awards and the Sunday Times Award. Chris is also wrote The Soldier Who Said No and A Sailor’s Honour.

Book details


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