More than a year after the owner of a string of South African strip clubs was shot and killed, police are still chasing his killer. Now the recent deaths of men linked to Lolly Jackson have added to the mystery.
Police reports read like a crime thriller, complete with graphic violence, sex and cash.
It began May 3, 2010, when police received a call from a man who said he wanted to surrender after killing Jackson. Police went to a house that belonged to Jackson's friend near Johannesburg's airport and found the strip club tycoon's body. He had been shot several times.
The caller, however, had left in Jackson's car before police arrived, they said. The caller has been identified and police said they are pursuing him as the suspect, but no arrests have been made and he has fled to his native Cyprus.
Jackson was known for his love of flashy cars, periodic legal encounters with police and employees, and the provocative billboards of his Teazers clubs. In life, he proudly called himself the "King of Teaze," and reveled in clashes with South Africa's advertising authorities over his billboards featuring models in lingerie and the double entendre _ just barely _ slogans.
In death, the Teazers website still features a photograph of Jackson, the son of a Greek immigrant to Africa. The same photo was blown up larger than life to greet hundreds of friends and relatives and dozens of journalists at Jackson's funeral. It shows the burly Jackson with his hair slicked back, wearing a tuxedo and bow tie, a white rose tucked into his lapel.
He was eulogized at his funeral as a "man of true quality," though one speaker acknowledged he "lacked a bit of polish."
Last month, the charred body of Jackson's lawyer was found in the burned remains of his car near Johannesburg. Days later, Jackson's former business partner, Mark Andrews, was found dead on an isolated stretch of highway near Johannesburg.
Andrews "was shot in the back of the head and his hands were tied behind his back," police spokesman Lungelo Dlamini told The Associated Press.
Dlamini said police were still investigating, and could not confirm media reports the three deaths were linked.
The headlines might make it seem South Africa is overwhelmed by mafia-style violence. In fact, murder rates have been dropping steadily since 1994. The police minister said earlier this month that murders fell by 6.5 percent in the past year to 15,940 _ the lowest since the end of apartheid in 1994. South Africa still has one of the highest crime rates in the world.
Local media, in a kind of morbid round of six degrees of separation, have linked other deaths since 2009 to Jackson. By some accounts, the body count is 10, among them a bouncer and a private investigator said to have worked for a Czech businessman living in South Africa who is wanted in his homeland on fraud and other charges.
Dlamini said he could not confirm reports that any of these deaths were connected, and they had no suspects in the deaths of the strip club boss's lawyer or his former business partner.
But police said the man who made that May 2010 phone call is a suspect in Jackson's killing. The man, known as George Smith or George Louca, fled to his native Cyprus after Jackson was killed. From there, as authorities wrangle over his extradition, Smith-Louca has given interviews to South African reporters, claiming that if he were brought back to South Africa, he would implicate others in money laundering, bribery and other crimes.
"We're still making those efforts to get George Louca, or whatever his name is, from Cyprus," McIntosh Polela, spokesman for an elite South African police unit known as the Hawks, told AP.
Polela said the investigating was stalled until the suspect can be brought to South Africa, but that police would look into possible links to other killings.
"But we don't want to speculate," he said.
Donna Bryson can be reached on http://twitter.com/dbrysonAP
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