She was born in Lichtenburg. Her maternal grandfather, Carl Friedrich Wilhelm HASELAU was born in Lower Saxony on 26 August 1851. He worked as a mercantile clerk in Brandenburg, when he decided to immigrate to the Cape. At the age of 27, Carl and his wife, Justina Sobina LANGE (21), left on 10 October 1877 aboard the Caroline Behn, from Hamburg to Cape Town. The ship’s passenger list shows Carl and Justina from Neu-Meichow (Brandenburg) and that Carl was an labourer (arbeiter). He worked for a Mr. CROSSMAN, who employed him to manage the farm Buck Kraal, near Peddie. Most of the couple's children were born there, and educated by Miss Pinkie HARTLEY. Carl bought some land at Mngquesha near the Pirie Forest in the King William's Town area, where he started a timber business and farmed. He built a school and re-built a church that had been destroyed during the 1876 Frontier War. A grandson, Otto HASELAU, later still lived at Mngqesha. Carl died on 29 December 1918 and Justina on 01 October 1928.
One of Carl's daughters, Louise Ella HASELAU, married Ernst SCHROEDER. They were the parents of Jacoba, who was born on 08 June 1931. When she was four years old, her mother had to go out to work, and she was cared for by a cousin in Vereeniging until she was 13. In early 1948, she worked for a coal company in Vereeniging but moved to Johannesburg two months later. She got her nickname from Philip STEIN, a 52 year old Jewish bookmaker, that she met at a dance in Orange Grove and then lived with him. He found her to be sweet, except when she was drunk. Early in June 1949, after coming home drunk, he asked her to move out. Shortly afterwards, she moved to Dorchester Mansions in Rissik Street, where she shared an apartment with a friend, Mrs. GRIFFIN, who was a hostess. Bubbles never had a regular job in all the time she lived in Johannesburg. It is believed she entertained men, probably as a dancer or hostess. According to Mrs. GRIFFIN, she spent her days at the beauty parlour and her nights at night clubs.
On Thursday 11 August 1949, Morris BILCHIK visited Bubbles' apartment and made a date with her for the following Saturday evening. After the date, they went back to his home and she spent the night there. The following Monday, Morris told his friend, David POLLIACK (21), about his date. The two visited Bubbles that afternoon, and they tried to arrange for one of Bubble's friends, Penny, to go out with them that night. Penny was nowhere to be found, so the three decided to go out later. After Morris and David left Bubbles, she went to visit Philip, where she spent the rest of the afternoon having a few glasses of brandy, before returning home at 6 p.m. Morris and David were already waiting for her. She changed into a green dress and refreshed her make-up. The three left at about 7.30 p.m. for David's house, Hlatikulu, in Illovo, as his mother was in Durban at the time. Bubbles went in David's car, while Morris took his own car. Upon reaching the house, David's cousin, Hyman Balfour LEIBMAN (20), was leaving for Houghton to pick up his date. David and Morris invited him to bring his date back to the house to join the party, but Hyman declined as he was taking her to the cinema.
David asked Irene MIYA, his family's cook, to prepare some food, and at about 9.30 p.m. they sat down to a meal of asparagus soup, chops with chips, and a dessert of tinned peaches. Bubbles also drank a few glasses of brandy and snacked on peanuts. At about 11.15 p.m. Morris left. Bubbles and David listened to records in his room. Not long after he had left, Morris phoned and spoke to Bubbles, and then David. At about midnight Hyman returned from his cinema date. Although he lived in Brits, he often stayed at Hlatikulu when Mrs POLLIACK was away. David told him Bubbles was drunk and he wanted to take her home. Hyman later said he went upstairs to the room and saw that she had been drinking, but was not drunk. She insisted on having another drink. He gave her a brandy. At about 12.30 a.m., Bubbles decided to go home. Her mother was staying with her, she said, and expected her back by 1.00 a.m. At about 1.30 a.m., the three of them walked out onto the driveway. David wanted to take her home, but she got into Hyman's car and wouldn't get out. Hyman drove her home, but before getting there, she wanted to drive. Hyman wouldn't let her, and about twenty minutes after leaving the house, he arrived back at the house alone. He told David she made him stop and let her out, when he refused to let her drive. David got in his car and went looking for her. About an hour later, he returned home, without having found her.
"Don’t be surprised if you read about my corpse in the morning papers" were the last words Bubbles apparently said to Hyman, as she got out of his car and began the long walk home from the corner of Oxford Road and Corlett Drive in Illovo, to Rissik Street in downtown Johannesburg.
The next day, Morris phoned David at work. Morris had gone to Dorchester Mansions to see Bubbles, but was told by her mother that she hadn't returned home from her night out. David went to see Mrs. SCHROEDER. Morris, David and Mrs. SCHROEDER drove to Rosebank Police Station to report that Bubbles was missing. Her body was discovered, 30 hours after her death, at Birdhaven by Samuel Ngibisa MOBELA. The plantation was less than a kilometre from the spot where Hyman claimed to have dropped her off. She was lying on her back among burnt-out grass about 30 metres from the road. There were some scratch marks and bruising on her neck. Her handbag, coat and shoes were missing. Dr. J. FRIEDMAN, the Johannesburg District Surgeon who arrived on the scene, noticed the position of the body - it appeared that she had been carefully placed on the ground, suggesting that she had been murdered nearby and then carried into the plantation. Although her shoes were missing, there was neither grass nor soil on the soles of her feet. The bodice of the green dress she wore was slightly ripped and one button was missing. The lower right leg of her stocking was snagged in a number of places. Her panties were torn on the right side, but her black petticoat and black bra were intact.
The post-mortem revealed that she had not been sexually assaulted, that she was a virgin. In her mouth were some pieces of a hard, clay-like material. Although some of the bits lay deep in her throat, there were no particles in her lungs. Dr. FRIEDMAN examined the contents of her stomach, and this agreed with David and Morris' subsequent account of events on the night of her death. The post-mortem revealed that she was suffering from a condition of the thymus gland which would have caused her to fall unconscious very quickly from slight pressure around the neck. The bruising on her neck indicated that she had been strangled from behind, probably by a scarf, and had scratched herself in an effort to tear it away. Dr. FRIEDMAN concluded that cause of death was asphyxia and inhibition due to the pressure on her throat and the impaction of a hard clay-like substance (similar to that in a heap of builder's lime a couple of metres away) in her hypopharynx. He estimated the time of death as around two o'clock on the morning of Tuesday, 16 August.
The police launched a large-scale search in the area around Birdhaven, but without success. On 13 October, Hyman and David were arrested in connection with the murder. They appeared in court the following day and were remanded in custody. They were later granted bail of £5 000 and £500 respectively. Their trial began a few days later at the Johannesburg Magistrate's Court. The evidence presented by the police was almost entirely circumstantial. The prosecution based its case upon the fact that the men had been with her late on the night of her death. There was no direct evidence to suggest that either of the two men were connected in any way to her murder. They were were acquitted. Their lawyer was Israel (Isie) Aaron MAISELS. He passed away in 1994. One of the police investigators was Colonel Ulf BOBERG.
The murder made newspaper headlines for more than a year. Benjamin BENNETT, a crime writer for The Argus at the time, suggested that Bubbles probably tried to hitch a lift home and was picked up by a passing motorist. It is still one of South Africa's unsolved murders. Bubbles' father was in Johannesburg after the murder, and in the 1950s the police contacted her mother. Nothing further is known about them since the murder.
In May 1961, Pierre BOTHA released the Afrikaans film, Die Bubbles Schroeder Storie. It had been turned down for public viewing in South Africa by the Censorship Board in 1960. In 1961 the Board allowed screening only to White audiences over the age of 18 years. By 19 June 1961, it was drawing full houses at all seven drive-in theatres on the Rand.
E. Bilchik and Co. was established in 1932 in Johannesburg by Efraim BILCHIK. He died in August 1985 and the company was run by his son Morris BILCHIK. In March 1999, Morris BILCHIK (69), owner of an interior decorating company, appeared in the Johannesburg Magistrate's Court. He was called to testify in the inquiry into the death of Lawrence Keith BENGIS (50) in May 1994. Lawrence worked for the company as an accountant. He was found with five gun shot wounds in his car near the Oriental Plaza Fordsburg, a few days after he had told his wife that he had discovered evidence of fraud at the company. He was rushed to the Garden City Clinic but later died. The investigation into his murder had been dormant, until Peter SOLLER, a Johannesburg lawyer, asked for an inquiry in December 1998.
In October 2002, David POLLIACK (74), a multi-millionaire, was in the High Court in Pretoria in connection with maintenance payments. He was ordered to pay R30 000 per month to Jenny POLLIACK (43). The couple were married in 1995 and had a son a year later. She was his third wife. David was then a director of at least 12 companies, including United City, POLLIACK Investments, Sandown Mews and Realco. David died in December 2006 in Johannesburg, and was buried at West Park Cemetery.
Bubbles tells the story of Bubbles' childhood in Lichtenburg and later life in Johannesburg. Born in the poorer part of Lichtenburg, Bubbles grows up with a bitter mother who takes in laundry to make ends meet and a dull-witted aunt. She has never known her father. Bubbles dreams of a better life for herself and at 16 she moves to Vereeniging to work in a coal agency and is befriended by the sophisticated Winifred Walker. Winnie teaches Bubbles some social graces. Bubbles soon moves to Johannesburg where she is taken under the wing of a middle-aged bookie, Barry. He introduces her to wealthy young men who find her captivating. She is convinced that the perfect beau is about to swoop in and take her away to a grand home and a life of fun and luxury. Bubbles finds that the world to which she aspires turns menacing and, ultimately, fatal. The film rights have been bought by Lisa Bryer, co-producer of The Last King of Scotland.
Kathryn SMITH is a forensic artist. Her latest exhibition, Incident Room, was recently on show at the AOP Art Gallery in Johannesburg. She used photos of the location where Bubbles was found, her grave, the suspects, the death certificate, letters, and newspaper reports. She first heard about Bubbles, when she read a book in high school.
For Men Must Work, by E.L.G. Schnell, 1954
Deutsche Wanderung Nach Sudafrika in 19 Jahrhundent, by Werner Schmidt, Pretoria
The evil that men do, by Benjamin Bennett
Loon van die sonde, by Chris Vermaak, Pretoria, 1990
The Boberg Story, by Ulf Boberg
A life at law: the memoirs of I.A. Maisels, QC
Benjamin Bennett Collection 1904-1985, University of Cape Town
Beeld newspaper archives