05/24/2012 12:08 pm ET Updated Jul 24, 2012

Buried Letter Helps Solve 13-Year Old South African Murder Mystery

By Cosmas Butunyi

JOHANNESBURG, May 24 (Reuters) - A letter found buried beneath a carpet that begins with the words "By the time you read this, I will probably be dead" has helped unlock a 13-year-old murder mystery in South Africa, police said on Thursday.

The letter, apparently a confession from one of the people who killed a woman in 1999, led police to arrest five people this week.

Tandiwe Betty Ketani was shot in the head 13 years ago in Johannesburg and left for dead - but she survived and was taken to a hospital.

The 37-year-old mother was kidnapped from hospital and for the past 13 years has been classed as a missing person - until the letter shed light on her fate.

The letter said the suspected killers had abducted her from the hospital using a forged medical note when they realised she had survived, and then shot her dead. It is not known if the author is alive or if they are one of the suspects arrested.

The note was found about two months ago when the owners of a Johannesburg-area house were renovating. It was then turned over to police, who used it to break the case.

The man who discovered the letter, who asked not be named, said that when his family read its contents, it felt like they were playing parts in a Hollywood movie.

"We were sweating, you know, and I said don't drip sweat on the papers because you are going to damage them," he told national radio broadcaster Eyewitness News.

Police spokesman Tshisikhawe Ndou told Reuters the five, who are charged with kidnapping and murder, will appear in court in Johannesburg on Friday for a bail application. Two police officers are among the five, local media reported.