Sunny Place, Shady Person

A few years after we moved to Sedgefield all talk was of a newcomer in town. He was German and rumour had it, filthy rich. He bought a huge house on the top of the hill with a 180 sea view, he drove fast, flash cars from his hilltop to the village, his ash-blonde companion had one of those small, fluffy dogs you keep in a handbag – they even put a sauna into their white mansion.
Word was he’d won the lottery, others swore he was the winner of the European version of Who Wants to be A Millionaire. While the source of his money was vague, Dirk Hintz lived large. He was also generous, helping the local poor, donating to charity, and even buying a new fire truck for the Sedgefield emergency services.
Then, just before Christmas 2005, Interpol swooped into the country and arrested Dirk while he was in Cape Town. Turned out, Dirk Hintz was really Gotz Decker, and his million Euros had not coming from answering a series of questions, but rather from being the mastermind behind a cash heist in Germany in 2001.
He’d fled to Amsterdam with the money, bought identity documents from a vagrant there, flew to South Africa and landed up in Sedgefield. From his sun drenched deck he wrote, and sent, regular letters to the German authorities, updating them on the great life he was living.
View from Dirk's deck.

View from Dirk's deck.

Presumably, the envelopes didn’t have a Sedgefield postmark because it took Interpol a couple of years to find him. They eventually did it by following his daughter, who flew to Cape Town to visit him.

Gotz, or Dirk to us Sedgefielders, is now back in town after serving a 3 year prison sentence. He hasn’t come back to live here, he can’t afford it anymore. He’s back in town because a German TV company is making a five-part series about his life.


7 Responses to “Sunny Place, Shady Person”

  1. 1 Lisa August 10, 2009 at 6:10 pm

    I love the way the journalist finds it odd that the community liked the guy. A likeable criminal; it’s so charming. I guess you’d have to have a bit of charisma and chutzpah to get away with it – and it sounds like the guy has taken his dues with much equanimity.

    • 2 Jeannine August 11, 2009 at 7:38 am

      As Linda says – the appeal of the charming rogue. . . When you look at it, he had four years of high living, sea and sun in exchange for 3 years 10 months in a German prison. Not a bad deal.
      He also went from being a middle-aged drone in a dead-end job to someone who gets flown across the world by a TV company, accompanied by a camera man!

  2. 3 shoreacres August 11, 2009 at 2:21 am

    Fascinating that the guy sat around writing letters – and interesting to ponder that had he used a computer, they could have nabbed him pronto. Well, unless he was really good at wending his way through proxy servers and anonymizers and all that stuff I know only enough about to say the words.

    The charming rogue, the appealing s.o.b., the killer who brings out the maternal instincts – they really are interesting. No wonder the inevitable film’s happening already.

    That’s quite the view from his deck. It certainly was a great home base – at least while it lasted.

  3. 4 shoreacres August 11, 2009 at 2:28 am

    Whoops! Forgot to mention… Congrats on the ten year anniversary of the Farmer’s Market. Looks like good participation in the municipal strike. So, “dagga” is your name for the vile weed…

    I really had fun looking through the paper. Even got my calculator out – with a conversion rate of 8.02, our prices are roughly comparable 😉

    And look at all those winter clothes!

    • 5 Jeannine August 11, 2009 at 7:40 am

      I do wonder why he wrote the letters, and if the letters had anything to do with his capture.
      As for the dagga – this area is the last outpost for hippies and we have a large Rasta community – it’s a growth industry!

  4. 6 ian in hamburg August 12, 2009 at 9:55 am

    I’ll be watching for that show. Would you like us to tape it for you and send a copy? We still do VHS at our place…

    BTW – what was he thinking, sending the German cops letters? What an idiot.

    • 7 Jeannine August 12, 2009 at 5:15 pm

      Yeah ian, the letter writing bothers me too! If he’d just sat on his deck and shut up would they have caught him? Guess he wanted glory as well as wealth.

      It would be really fantastic if you could tape the series – I would love to see it! Thanks so much.

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