‘I became a honeytrap to avenge my aunt’s murder’: She’s a retired surveyor from Kent. Yet for six months she posed as a flirty 20-something air hostess – to lure a suspected killer out of hiding. Now he’s facing justice…
- Lehanne Sergison spent six years on the trail of her aunt’s suspected killer
- She tracked down the suspect, Andrew Ndlovu, and lured him out with flirtation
- Christine Robinson, 59, was found dead at South African lodge she ran in 2014
- Thanks to Lehanne’s efforts police apprehended Ndlovu and he faces justice
The breakthrough Lehanne Sergison had been waiting for came as she meandered around her local lavender farm in Kent on a sunny afternoon last month.
For six years she had been doggedly on the trail of the man who was the prime suspect in the brutal killing of her aunt.
And now, at last, the news came that, thanks to her efforts, he had been apprehended by police — and on the anniversary of her Aunt’s death, too.
Lehanne’s amateur sleuthing, not to mention the retired chartered surveyor’s respectable Home Counties lifestyle, might put one in mind of Agatha Christie’s tenacious Miss Marple, the lady amateur detective who was always more successful than the police in solving the crime.
Lehanne Sergison who underwent a six year mission to lure her aunt’s suspected killer to justice by pretending to be a flirty air hostess
The fact that she learned the news as she picked up a bag of cut lavender to take home only adds to the picture.
Yet Miss Marple never learned of a breakthrough through Facebook Messenger. Nor did she ever turn herself into a honeytrap to catch a suspected killer.
Yet that is exactly what Lehanne did. After tracking down suspect Andrew Ndlovu where the efforts of police had failed, Lehanne posed as a glamorous air hostess and exchanged increasingly flirtatious Facebook messages in an attempt to draw him out of hiding.
‘I hated what I had to do,’ Lehanne says. ‘Befriending and flirting with the man I was convinced had murdered Auntie Chrissie was sickening. But I adored her and wasn’t prepared to see her murder unavenged.’
On July 30, 2014, the battered body of Christine Robinson was found at the South African lodge she had run with her husband until his death in 2012.
Christine and husband Robbie Robinson at their Rra-Ditau lodge in South Africa. Robbie died in 2012 two years before Christine’s death
For Lehanne, 16 years Christine’s junior and very close to her aunt, it was devastating.
‘The killer took everything from her — her dignity, her life and all her hopes and dreams,’ she says. ‘She was only 59 with so much to live for.’
Prime suspect Andrew Ndlovu, who was tracked down by Lehanne
Talking in the garden of her comfortable home in Bickley, Kent, it is clear Lehanne — who has had to take early retirement because of poor health — is shocked that she succeeded where the authorities failed.
On the surface, there is absolutely nothing that marks her out as a detective. She isn’t even a fan of mystery stories. Setting up a honeytrap couldn’t have been further from her norm al peaceful life. That she persevered is testament to the love between aunt and niece.
‘Auntie Chrissie was a life force,’ says Lehanne, 49. ‘She’s one of those people who makes the world a better place. She was my favourite aunt and I knew I was very special to her — particularly as she had no children of her own.
‘When I was born, Chrissie was at teacher training college in Carmarthen. I spent weekends and holidays at my grandparents’ in Liverpool and Chrissie was always there. I was entranced by this exciting teenager.
‘We would snuggle up in bed together and she would read me Enid Blyton stories. On hot summer days we went blackberry picking.’
After qualifying as a junior school teacher, the intrepid Chrissie started globetrotting. As well as holidays to far-flung places such as the Galapagos Islands, she taught all over the world — Germany, Russia, China and Kuwait.
Wherever Chrissie went, drama seemed to follow. The family had a motto: ‘It could only happen to Chrissie.’
Lehanne made a fake Facebook account she named ‘Missy Falcao’ (left) to contact Andrew Ndlovu, who also hid behind a fake account (right)
‘Aged 30, Chrissie announced she was going skiing for the first time,’ Lehanne recalls. ‘She got off the ski lift on the first day and fell over. Skiers piled on top of her and she broke her hip so badly, she had to convalesce for three months. Being Chrissie, she was soon back skiing.’
This can-do attitude proved intoxicating to Lehanne, particularly because, aged three, she was diagnosed with severe asthma. The condition has dominated her life, necessitating monthly visits to hospital. It is so debilitating she was advised not to have children.
In 2005, aged 50, Chrissie married 57-year-old Daniel Robinson, known as Robbie. They met in Kuwait where they were both working and he proved exactly the adventurous sort of man Chrissie needed.
‘We all adored him — he was kind, generous and huge fun,’ recalls Lehanne.
Christine and her sister Diane, Lehanne’s mum. After Robbie’s death Chrissie had said she wanted to sell the ranch rather than run it alone
Chrissie and Robbie married in 2005, she was aged 50, he was 57
It was Robbie’s idea to settle in South Africa in 2002 after falling in love with the countryside. Their business — a ranch and conference centre near the renowned Marakele Game Park in the north-east of the country — proved a success.
‘I can’t fly because of my condition, so sadly I never visited. But she bought a little house near Perpignan, France, where I visited her,’ recalls Lehanne.
Then in 2012 Robbie was diagnosed with terminal cancer. The couple flew back to Britain, but barely two months later Robbie was dead.
The pair decided to settle in South Africa and open a ranch after falling in love with the countryside in 2002
Grief-stricken, Chrissie couldn’t bear the thought of running the ranch alone. However, with many loose ends to tie up, she made the fateful decision to return to sell it.
‘We all tried to dissuade her but we didn’t really appreciate the risks,’ recalls Lehanne. ‘If only we’d known just how dangerous South Africa is for a lone woman.’
On July 30, 2014, as Lehanne enjoyed lunch with a friend, her mobile rang. Seeing a South African number she expected to hear her aunt on the other end.
Lehanne in 1987, with Christine (right)
Instead it was the ranch manager, with devastating news. Chrissie had failed to attend a meeting that morning. Worried, staff had broken into her home. In the bedroom they found Chrissie’s body, bundled into her bloodstained duvet.
Later investigation was to show that, after a violent struggle, the killer had raped Chrissie, then attempted to strangle her before finally stabbing her to death.
On the table was Chrissie’s dirty dinner plate from the night before. She hadn’t had time to wash it up. And missing was a portion of the £3,500 in cash which Chrissie had drawn out to pay staff.
Also missing was the lodge’s 24-year-old gardener Andrew Ndlovu. CCTV cameras in the nearby town caught him getting into a friend’s car at 6am and driving away. When police rang his mobile, he admitted he was returning to his native Zimbabwe, but promised to meet them at the border the next day to help with their inquiries. He never appeared.
And that was the last contact crime agencies had with him — until Lehanne stepped in.
‘For months we were in complete shock,’ recalls Lehanne. Like most of us, she trusted in authority and believed the Foreign Office would do all in its power to assist the South African police in bringing the killer to justice. But, as it seemed initial incompetence in South Africa was followed by months of inaction and then apparent utter insouciance, Lehanne became frustrated and increasingly furious.
‘I begged my MP for help, but he referred me back to the Foreign Office,’ recalls Lehanne. ‘The South African police — obviously underfunded — said they would accept British help, but the Foreign Office said they couldn’t intervene. Only the wonderful charity Murdered Abroad, who help relatives find justice, offered meaningful support.’
Murdered Chrissie’s final resting place in her native Liverpool, UK, where she is described as ‘an inspiration to us all’
A prophetic postcard sent by Chrissie years before her murder telling how she ‘abandoned’ visiting South Africa after reports of killing
Meanwhile, she kept in touch with Chrissie’s staff at the 30-bed lodge. It was a former manager who, in late 2018, let Lehanne know Andrew Ndlovu was back in South Africa and posting on Facebook.
‘I’d given up hope of getting help elsewhere. This was my chance,’ says Lehanne. ‘If I could get him to be my Facebook friend, I could at least find out where he lived and worked.
‘But I knew I needed to capture his interest. And that meant setting a honeytrap.’
We all know how sadly common it is for impoverished young men to create sexy images on social media to trick comfortably-off women of a certain age into falling in love with them.
‘I decided to use the exact same tactics,’ explains Lehanne. ‘With my husband Simon’s help, I created an alter ego. I called myself Missy Falcao, which is a conglomeration of the names of my two greyhounds.
Lehanne (left) with aunt Christine (centre) in 1980. Lehanne kept in touch with the ranch staff to learn more about the suspected killer’s whereabouts after Chrissie’s death
‘For my photo, I chose a back shot of a woman with dark hair which I got off the internet. You couldn’t see her face, but I hoped it was tantalising enough. I built up a back story. I was a 28-year-old air hostess, which would shout out glamour and money. I said I was from Ghana but living near the airport in Johnnesburg.’
She also created an army of fictional friends for herself who posted on Missy Falcao’s page.
‘I’m not particularly technically minded, so keeping track of what I was posting and ensuring I had set the security levels right was a nightmare,’ she says.
To allay suspicion, as well as befriending Ndlovu, Lehanne ‘added’ his friends. ‘I posted cheesy messages and, every time they posted a photo, I was first to say how much I liked it. I posted Happy Birthday messages, too.’
Here Lehanne delivers a petition and 430 letters at 10 Downing Street for the attention of Prime Minister David Cameron asking him to take action in pursuing the arrest in South Africa
As Ndlovu regularly changed his Facebook name and profile, presumably because he knew he was a wanted man, she was able to track him through his friends. However, while Ndlovu accepted her friendship requests, he failed to respond to Lehanne’s friendly messages.
But like every good amateur detective, Lehanne knew patience would pay off.
Sure enough, one afternoon in December 2018, some six months after Lehanne started posting, Ndlovu — now calling himself Andrea Druza on the website — took the bait.
Andrew Ndlovu was the gardener at Chrissie’s lodge and disappeared after her death
‘I’d decided to be a bit bolder,’ says Lehanne. ‘Ndlovu had posted a photo of himself so I wrote: ‘You look sexy.’ Up flashed the response. ‘Thank u. How u doing?’
‘This was what I wanted, but I went into a panic, wondering what I was going to say next, and called for Simon.’
To build a credible dialogue, Simon grabbed his laptop and checked the weather in Johannesburg (where Ndlovu was living) that day, and looked at what was going on in his local area.
‘It meant I could start a conversation about the weather and what was going on in local clubs, just to start building his trust,’ says Lehanne.
As the days passed and Ndlovu’s interest was piqued, Lehanne knew she needed more help. ‘Simon and I have been together over 20 years so it’s a very long time since I have flirted with a stranger,’ explains Lehanne. ‘I rang friends with daughters and asked them for tips.’
Lehanne knew she had to keep Ndlovu tantalised without giving away too much. She often posted at night, propped up in bed beside the sleeping Simon. ‘I explained I was a modest, Christian woman and had had my heart broken so I wouldn’t be rushing into anything,’ recalls Lehanne. ‘I told him I wanted to quit my job to start a family and fancied hotel work. I built up a picture of a kind, naïve and demure woman looking for love.’ Soon messages were coming thick and fast from the smitten Ndlovu.
‘My heart beats faster when I see a message from you. I feel like we have a connection,’ he wrote. As she reeled him in, Lehanne was both exultant and repulsed. ‘There were times I had to rush to the bathroom to throw up,’ she shudders.
‘On the evidence I believed this man was a monster, but here I was exchanging flirty messages with him — building up a rapport, feeling sorry for him. I even called him Sexy Eyes just to build trust.
‘I knew it was the only way I could nail him. But having to sweet talk him gave me nightmares. I wanted to scream: ‘I know what you have done.’
They had been corresponding for a few weeks when Ndlovu suggested they chat. ‘That was impossible so I had to pretend my father had had a heart attack back home in Ghana and I’d flown home and had no phone signal,’ says Lehanne.
Exchanges between ‘Missy’ and ‘Andrea Druza’ – the suspected killer appeared to have multiple Facebook accounts
Soon Ndlovu was calling her his princess and begging to meet. Once again Lehanne was able to use her air hostess cover story to put him off. However, he began to get suspicious.
‘He thought I was cheating on him,’ Lehanne says with a wry smile. Lehanne reassured him she wasn’t and suggested they make plans to meet one Saturday.
She then got the South African police involved. They agreed to be there when she set up a meeting. But, frustratingly, each time she arranged to meet Ndlovu, the police cancelled, blaming lack of manpower.
Lehanne knew she couldn’t keep up the pretence for ever, especially as she had to keep cancelling their ‘dates’. Then, in June last year, six months into the ‘relationship’, Ndlovu stopped responding to her Facebook messages.
Lehanne Sergison, 49, from Bickley, Kent
It seemed as if Lehanne was back at square one. ‘I was so upset. We had come so far,’ she says. However, through continuing to track his Facebook account, she saw when he posted a photo of himself on his birthday, February 6. The backdrop showed he was still in Johannesburg.
‘He could still be caught — it just needed one more push,’ she says.
On July 30, Lehanne posted a memorial on Facebook, stating her suspicions that six years ago Ndlovu raped and murdered her aunt. For the first time she included a photo of Ndlovu. The post was shared by South African human rights group AfriForum. Within hours it was shared 70,000 times.
And so it was that Lehanne was buying lavender — Chrissie’s favourite plant — when a woman messaged her on Facebook. She had seen the post and recognised Ndlovu as a labourer at the family business.
‘She told me that when she showed Ndlovu the photo, he burst into tears and said that it wasn’t him.’
Ndlovu was arrested later that day. On August 3 he was charged with Chrissie’s rape and murder. He will reappear in court today for a bail hearing. ‘I’ve been told that, because he fled after the murder, it’s unlikely he will be bailed,’ says Lehanne. ‘But I don’t want to be too confident.’
It’s tempting to think that Lehanne’s fight would make her beloved aunt proud. But most of all Lehanne feels an aching sense of loss.
‘At her funeral everyone talked about Chrissie’s kindness and her infectious laugh, which was like champagne bubbles. When her murderer is finally behind bars, I hope we can concentrate on the wonderful woman she was, not her terrible end.’