[Following the January 1 CNI News story about documents alleging a possible UFO crash and recovery in Lesotho, South Africa, we received several letters from researchers casting strong doubt on the credibility of the Lesotho documents and their probable source, one James van Greunen. Part of the argument focused on problems with a prior UFO crash case in the Kalahari Desert of Botswana in 1989, referenced in the Lesotho documents and also involving van Greunen as a primary source. Van Greunen himself emerges as the most interesting element of the case -- an astonishingly energetic and resourceful scoundrel who has been denounced as a forger, con man and bigamist, and apparently is also a transsexual. Now, noted German researcher Michael Hesemann provides an intriguing perspective on van Greunen and the Lesotho case, while Andreas van Retyi (author of an extensive report on Lesotho) offers another. CNI News thanks Hesemann and van Retyi for permission to publish their (edited) comments.]
Michael Hesemann tells CNI News:
"Recently, three German UFO researchers published a report about an alleged UFO crash in Lesotho, an independent kingdom within the borders of the Republic of South Africa. I'm in possession of the same 'documents' but decided not to publish them, since I couldn't verify their content. More than that, their source is, mildly said, rather 'fishy.'
"I received the alleged Lesotho documents the first time via fax from South Africa on October 24th, 1995. Immediately I informed my colleagues Cynthia Hind of Zimbabwe and Anthony Dodd of England, both investigators of the alleged (and heavily contaminated) 'Kalahari Incident,' about their content. We all had the suspicion that Kalahari-Bandwaggon-jumper and hoaxer James van Greunen was behind the case, but decided to start an objective investigation.
"In 1989, van Greunen had contacted British researchers Armen Victorian and Anthony Dodd and promised them documents which would prove the alleged Kalahari crash. He claimed to be a Captain of the South African Air Force Intelligence. He came over to England with his wife and two children and managed to live for some months at the researchers' expense before they gave up dealing with him.
"Van Greunen left his family in Newcastle and went back to South Africa, where he met a nice German girl, Marion Wiegand, and decided to fly with her to Germany. He learned about me, contacted me, introduced himself as 'Capt. van Greunen' and promised me 200 pages of U.S. and S.A. intelligence documents about the Kalahari case. I offered him a good book contract, but he came up with 200 pages of U.S. UFO trivia, including the famous papers of Bill English, Bill Cooper and John Lear. He furthermore produced a good-looking "authentic" document which, as I soon found out, was a cut-and-paste job by himself, using the head and stamp of his birth certificate and a seal xeroxed from his passport to make it look more official. The 'document' was signed by a 'General Oberholser' whose signature showed 12 characteristics of James van Greunen's own signature in his passport. Later he confessed to me on tape that he faked this document and learned about the Kalahari incident from Capt. Henry G., his former schoolmate.
"James van Greunen was in the military for only a few months, then discharged after they found out he suffers from epilepsy. James has a history as a young UFO enthusiast, alleged contactee and salesman of tickets for non-existent UFO conferences in South Africa. I sent a full report (including a copy of the tape) to Walt Andrus of MUFON and Prof. Jack Kasher. My conclusions were fully supported and confirmed by Cynthia Hind, MUFON's representative for the African Continent, one of the finest and most experienced UFO researchers on this planet.
"From time to time I heard about van Greunen's latest adventures. He married his German fiancee, which was a case of bigamy, and fathered a child. He got into trouble with the German authorities after he applied for a job in Germany's "Bundeswehr" (Army), claiming he was a Captain of the SAAF Intelligence and producing a faked service record. He was sentenced for forgery of a document and using a fake rank. When his wife found out that he's a con man and bigamist, she threw him out.
"A few months later, he called me and told me he was so frustrated that he had decided to undergo a sex change -- and became Judith Helena de Cadenet-van Greunen, a glamorous creature who later worked in a night club in Johannesburg.
"Then came the day when 'she' called me and claimed that Erol, one of her friends, allegedly a journalist, had an amazing story of a UFO crash in Lesotho. He had documents and would be willing to sell them for $3000. So that was the source and intention behind the faxed documents of October 24, 1995!
"Since everything is possible -- there are even indications that the Kalahari incident indeed happened and was just exploited by van Greunen -- I decided at least to give it a chance. The next phone call was from Judith van Greunen, who needed the money for a correction of her sex change operation in a Munich hospital. She promised if I bought her a ticket she would bring me the originals of the documents plus more, including an alien autopsy report, X-ray photos and a videotape of the recovery operation, taken from a helicopter circling above the crashed spaceship. We agreed that she would FEDEX the documents, I would pay her ticket, she would bring the film, and if it turned out to be real she would get the money.
"I got the documents, including four alleged X-rays (which turned out to be fakes), but when Judith arrived in Munich I learned that she 'left the video in SA for security reasons.' Of course she received no money, but promised to fly back to SA after the operation and come back a month later, since she would now work as a courier for the SA Intelligence.
"When she arrived in Munich without prior notice in February 1996, allegedly with the video, I reserved her a hotel room and wanted to meet her the next day. I offered to come down from Dusseldorf, but she told me she would come and visit me. Just two hours later I received another call: She was ordered back to SA by 'her friends in the intelligence community,' but she was willing to send me the video by mail if I sent her $30,000 in advance. I replied that if she showed the video to a friend of mine in Munich, and he was impressed, we could negotiate a price. She agreed, but called again an hour later, claiming that two agents of the South African Intelligence were already in the lobby and going to force her into a car and back to SA. Indeed, she was a great actress! I phoned the hotel and was told by the friendly receptionist that "Miss van Greunen" checked out normally, with all her luggage, without any agents or any escape in panic!
"Next day I was called by W. Eberhardt, a journalist of 'Focus,' a German political news magazine (like Newsweek or Time): Now van Greunen claimed to be a Major of the SAAF Intelligence and wanted to sell the magazine 'exclusive documents about a crash of the Top Secret U.S. black budget aircraft "Aurora" in Lesotho.' She also claimed that I was working for the South African Intelligence and would try to spread the cover-story that instead of Aurora, a UFO had crashed. To back this claim, she even produced a newly made 'document' mentioning me: 'Any question regarding Mr. Hesemann or his cooperation with our government by the German government must be denied and debunked at the highest level possible.' Of course, I knew THIS document was fake! According to Mr. Eberhardt, van Greunen had tried before to sell the same documents -- now heavily censored with blacked out sections to make them compatible for the new 'Aurora' explanation -- to the German intelligence service BND.
"In May 1996, van Greunen contacted Ray Santilli in London and offered her 'alien retrieval film' for $30,000. Ray, who had had enough hassle with the Alien Autopsy Footage, refused to buy it without seeing at least a still beforehand -- which, of course, was never delivered.
"We checked some of the content of the 'Lesotho documents.' Cynthia Hind checked some of the Generals' names and learned that they are non-existent. I called some of the numerous phone numbers on the various letterheads of the 'documents' and found that they don't have anything to do with any of the listed institutes. Furthermore, the political situation in South Africa would make it rather improbable that Lesotho would contact the South African Intelligence with a request for help, especially in such a big issue, because 'help' could easily turn into an unwanted control over an internal affair. To be one hundred percent sure, I still plan to organise a field research, trying to locate the alleged local witnesses and police officers involved in Lesotho -- if they even exist.
"To summarize, we don't have any indication that the Lesotho documents are authentic. They look dubious -- some are written in a very artistic, fat, rounded script, rather unlikely for intelligence and military forms. Their source is more than dubious -- a proven con-artist with a lot of experience in document-faking, definitely NO rank or position in the SA Intelligence community and the tendency to play games with researchers.
"Of course it IS possible that something happened in Lesotho on September 15, 1995, but there is no evidence for it. Documents are easy to fake and can't be considered evidence unless either the source or their content are verified. Therefore it is, at least in my humble opinion, irresponsible to muddy the waters of ufology any more by an uncritical exposure of this rather dubious case." [end of Michael Hesemann's statement]
The following is a statement from German investigator Andreas van Retyi, whose research prompted the first internet reports on the alleged Lesotho incident, including the CNI News story of January 1.
Andreas van Retyi writes:
"Since the publication of my 28-page-report in the German language UFO-KURIER magazine (no. 27, January 1997) on the current status of investigation regarding the so-called "Lesotho Incident," I feel bound to provide some additional comments. First of all, this was a preliminary report, not final, and was intended to trigger further investigation of the matter in question.
"Some readers recall the Kalahari Incident of 1989, when an alleged UFO crash took place in the Kalahari desert, Botswana. The source, a certain James van Greunen, was soon in the crossfire and it turned out that there were fakes and false claims by this person, so that most UFO researchers came to the conclusion that the whole case had to be a fabrication by this man. Of course, this seems to be a strong possibility.
"But I strongly recommend a close look at the thorough investigative efforts of researcher Anthony Dodd from England regarding the Kalahari Incident (ref. Quest UFO magazine, Vol. 12 No. 2, 1993, article on the Kalahari crash by Graham Birdsall). When asked why other researchers often call that incident a hoax, Dodd replied: 'Because they do not know anything.' His extensive investigation showed that, at least, something very unusual had happened in South Africa in 1989. High-ranking persons out of the SA intelligence community confirmed the event. This is not the place to retell the Kalahari story -- however, the investigation shows that van Greunen obviously received information on an authentic occurrence.
"Of course, this in no way proves that van Greunen is or was in military or intelligence service. As it seems, he got the information from friends. To make things even more complicated, James van Greunen has received a new identity by changing his sex. I do not want to defend van Greunen in any way. But personally I think the discussion at the moment focuses a bit too much on the person van Greunen. Of course, for us -- Mr. Stein, Mr. Kopp and myself -- it was also quite easy to find contradictions and lies in van Greunen's accounts that made us very skeptical. However, the question is: Could this really affect the whole case? Is it proof that the whole thing is a hoax? Not necessarily.
"At the moment, we are in no way able to prove that an extraterrestrial spaceship crashed in Lesotho in 1995. However, again, like in the Kalahari case, there are certain aspects that lead us to the conclusion that something happened then, something which is worth further investigation. From credible sources we have confirmation that at the time in question a huge fireball was seen over Lesotho and wide parts of southern Africa. Interestingly enough, the government is not willing to release any data on that event. We have to ask: Could this object have been a normal bolide, i.e. a large celestial chunk burning up on its flight through the atmosphere? Or might it have been a satellite re-entry? No data have been released so far. Might there be a connection to the alleged Lesotho incident? Tony Dodd received confirmation from his sources that something unusual happened in Lesotho on September 15, 1995.
"We have confirmed statements by independent witnesses that van Greunen repeatedly had contact with the German secret service. Maybe she tried to lie to them, too. But what was or is her intention? Money? Maybe. However, would you try to sell faked documents to a foreign secret service with not the least substance contained in them? The term 'disinformation' means more than intentionally lying, e.g. for personal profit. The implication is: covering up real information. Why were we warned by another German agency that interest in a matter like the one discussed here could be rather dangerous? All these aspects and possibilities are in our mind now.
"It would be pure speculation to state that the bunch of documents provided by van Greunen are authentic, pure speculation to state that the story is true and that an extraterrestrial vehicle crashed in Lesotho two years ago. We really cannot exclude that this incident is based upon van Greunen's fabrication. However, it is also speculation that nothing did happen there. And we cannot simply stay quiet, put the material we have in a drawer and wait for a moment years later when some people find some substance to the incident, want to do research and find that any traces have been wiped out in the meantime. So let's carry out a thorough investigation and find out.
"The localities have to be visited and investigated. However, I doubt that, as has been proposed, asking Sergeant Thobo and other members of the Leribe [Lesotho] Police Department will assure us of true answers. People could be put under pressure. A thorough search and analysis of the alleged crash site is necessary. This will be a highly complex and expensive effort. But the chance of finding some remains are much better than at Roswell. So it is worthwile to try." [End of van Retyi's statement]
Based on the foregoing, CNI News must regard the alleged Lesotho "documents" as highly dubious, perhaps most interesting as a study in disinformation. Only on-site investigation by reputable researchers will be able to establish whether or not this case has merit. Inasmuch as both Hesemann and van Retyi claim plans to continue the investigation, CNI News will report any new developments.
Original file name: CNI - Lesotho Fake.edit
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