Tue, 22 Oct 2019

Fransua Venter, the homeless man mistakenly believed before to be Bloemfonteiner Dennis Haynes who disappeared more than three decades ago, has died.

The prodigal son story made headlines in 2017 when a Facebook user compared Fransua's photo with that of missing Dennis, who was 22 years old when he disappeared in 1986. He went missing after travelling from Bloemfontein to Pretoria for a job interview.

The Facebook user was convinced that the homeless Pretoria man was none other than Dennis. Much excitement followed Dennis' "miracle" return.

There was even a happy reunion with "Dennis" meeting his mother, Rina Smit (now 79).

But DNA test results later revealed Fransua wasn't Dennis, and soon thereafter Fransua was back on the streets.

The news his death was shared on Facebook on June 22 by Dennis' sister, Desiree Haynes (50), who posted pics of the two lookalike men along with the following message: "Remember the story of Dennis who turned out to be Francois (sic) Venter? During that time Francois experienced so much love and affection he'd never have known otherwise . . .

"The search for Dennis continues. But Francois' journey has ended. His body was found about a week ago under a bridge in Mountain View. We're going to miss you, Francois . . ."

A friend of Fransua's family confirmed he'd died on May 26.

"He was buried on June 8 after he'd been in a hit-and-run accident. He didn't die on impact," is all the friend would say on behalf of the family.

Desiree says she's been informed of Fransua's death in Pretoria.

"My heart is very sore. The tears are always near," she told YOU on Monday.

Seeing the picture of Fransua in 2017, Desiree also believed he was her missing brother.

She says she spoke to Fransua a month ago - they'd kept in touch.

"We just talked about how we both were and how my mother, Rina, was doing."

Rina has advanced bone and uterine cancer.

"We don't know how much time my mom has left," Desiree said. "I haven't told her about Fransua's death. They became quite close and to her it'd be like losing a son again," she added, wiping away tears.

Rina had been convinced that Fransua was her missing son and was heart-broken later learning the truth.

"I think he lived on the streets but I'm not sure. He never complained. I also don't know exactly how he died," Desiree says.

Desiree believes her brother Dennis is also deceased.

"Maybe the two of them will meet now."

Ruth Jacobs, a Pretoria woman who'd put Fransua in touch with the Haynes family believing he could be Dennis, has also been informed of his death.

"He died under a bridge, allegedly in a hit-and-run. It's such sad news," she said.

Desiree says she doesn't want her mom to find out about Fransua's death.

"She asks after him often but she's in a lot of pain [from the cancer]."

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