Carte Blanche's last Sunday night documentary on the possible discovery of bones linked to the missing Van Rooyen girls, may have made for gripping viewing, but was it good investigative journalism? writes Gill Gifford in The Star.

It has created a controversy, and probably not in the way it was intended. The documentary has been both slammed by media critics and hailed by viewers as offering hope.

Comments on the programme's website range from "good stuff, guys" to people vowing never to watch the programme again.

Professor Anton Harber of Wits University's journalism school described the piece as "a bad joke told at the expense of the families involved".

The hour-long piece, produced by award-winning journalist Susan Puren, was the result of two years of investigation, but does not come to a definitive conclusion.

"Months of meticulous research and investigation have culminated in a story so dramatic that details will only be divulged during the broadcast," the programme claimed ahead of the show.

The piece, presented by acclaimed journalist Ruda Landman, detailed how the unexplained disappearance of Tracey-Lee Scott-Crossley, Fiona Harvey, Joan Horn, Anne-Marie Wapenaar, Odette Boucher and Yolanda Wessels had remained in the minds of the public for 19 years.

The disappearances were all linked to Pretoria paedophile Gert van Rooyen, who shot dead his girlfriend Joey Haarhoff and killed himself when they were cornered by police.

The Carte Blanche team then linked up with former Free State policeman Danie Krugel, who claimed to have developed technology in which he is able to find the "master body" of something, using a sample consisting of the same DNA.

Once the sample is tested, Krugel's machine is said to pinpoint the main body containing the sought genetic signature using global positioning system (GPS) technology.

Krugel claimed his machine readings, after tests done on hairs from two of the missing girls, pointed to a vacant plot of land situated six blocks from the Van Rooyen house.

Krugel's equipment was unable to pinpoint an exact location, narrowing down to a search area the size of two football pitches. Carte Blanche then contacted the owners of the land and were granted permission to conduct a forensic excavation on the property over the period of a week.

As days passed and no skeletons were found, Carte Blanche called on clairvoyant Marietta Theunissen.

Theunissen appeared to be engaged by the voices of the missing girls, and confirmed that they were telling her they had been held at the site pinpointed by Krugel. But she was ultimately unable to refine the search area any further.

Carte Blanche then took the bone fragments they had gathered from the excavation to Unistell Medical Laboratory in Cape Town, where DNA testing was done. The tests confirmed that the remains were indeed human and linked to four men and two women.

This was as far as Carte Blanche took their investigation before presenting their findings to relatives of the missing girls. Some claimed the programme had given them some closure and relief.

But the documentary has elicited a massive response from viewers.

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