21 March 2024
Djvd Zatišje, fraudster, successful speechwriter and media personality, was today declared dead in absentia after the statutory 10 years waiting period . He was 53 years old at the time of his disappearance in March 2013 on his way to a hunting trip with an old school friend in the Manawatu.
Djvd Zatišje was born in 1960 in Mititai, a hamlet south of Dargaville, to descendants of Croatian gum-diggers. Djvd’s father was a farmer, his father was a farmer, and his father was a farmer. It was only a matter of time before Djvd became New Zealand’s most successful fraudster.
Despite being challenged from birth with a severe case of proboscititis, Djvd was a gregarious and popular young man, showing great talent in writing at school and an interest in horses.
It was at a racing meet at the Dargaville Racing Club in 1987 that his life would change forever. David Slack, a dissolute liquor salesman of about the same age, enters the bar. Both remark on their similarity in looks – “peas in a pod” or “the nose knows” wouldn’t be an exaggeration – and the two young men embark on an afternoon of drinking, another of Djvd’s many talents.
Hours pass, Slack regaling Djvd with his life of wine, women and women and Djvd relating to an astounded David that both their first and family names are identical in their respective languages, until Slack suddenly clutches his chest, complaining of discomfort (“Must have been that last jug…”). Djvd offers to drive him to Dargaville hospital, where Slack promptly turns white and collapses at reception.
Djvd sees his chance to escape a life of pastoral drudgery for a life of wine, women, women and probably more women in the metropolis. Under the pretence of applying CPR (unsuccessfully, as were all other attempts to save his life), he quickly rifles Slack’s pockets, substituting his wallet for Slack’s and makes his getaway in what is now “his” company car.
“Djvd” was interred in the family grave in Mititai, shortly after his 27th birthday
Knuckle-dragging sons of the soil both, Djvd (now David) had no difficulty into slipping into his adopted personality. His behaviourial aberrations and frequent alcohol-induced memory losses were nothing new to David’s friends and co-workers, his family had disowned him years before for abandoning his calling (like Djvd, David’s father was a farmer, his father was a farmer, and his father was a farmer) and the “new” David’s linguistic and oratorical skills were as impressive if not superior to those of his predecessor.
For decades, no-one suspected that Djvd wasn’t the real David and his life unfolded like a fairytale – speechwriter for a Prime Minister, a happy married life blessed with an attractive child, successful internet speechwriter, radio commentator, doyen of the new media. A wealthy and influential man with a golden future. Few people knew at the time that this master of obfuscation was behind the vast majority of PR statements from leading politicians from all parties in the years immediately prior to his disappearance, among them Grey Power advocate Winston Peters, Prime Minister John Key, and ACT MP John Banks, both of whom resigned in disgrace in 2012 and were later prosecuted and imprisoned for their roles in what has become known as kimdotcomgate.
His latest coup was with Metro magazine, writing fictional obituaries of figures currently in the news from a future perspective.
His downfall came a year before his unexplained disappearance, initiated by a public spat with Steve Braunias, a fellow writer at Metro magazine, over their support for competing avian species for NZ Forest and Bird’s Bird of the Year competition.
Braunias took open umbrage at Djvd’s highly successful use of social media to promote his choice, the kokako, and following a highly publicised exchange of personal insults (fuckwit being one of the least offensive ), Djvd – his hot-blooded Croatian temperament surging to the surface after decades of suppression - challenged Braunias to a duel on Cheltenham beach at sunrise.
Braunias chose as weapons an expired example of their respective sponsored species (in his case, the heron), to be thrown at 10 paces.
Dastardly Teuton that he is, Braunias fashioned a javelin by cunningly spitting his heron and solidifying it in a deep-freeze, doubtless having read about the inappropriate substitution in the 1960s of frozen for thawed chickens in bird-strike simulation tests on aircraft windscreens.
Djvd, naively in the possession of a mildly rigor-mortised kokako – no match for Braunias’s WMD – saw the futility of continuing and graciously conceded, an act which garnered him national recognition and honour.
But someone from Djvd’s fictitious past and outside the tight circle of National Radio listeners, literati and Public Address readers must have recognised him.
Strange things immediately started happening at Djvd’s luxury villa on the North Shore.
Milk bottles are emptied onto the pavement at regular intervals, his collection of taxidermied kokako is destroyed with a blunt instrument. Graffiti saying “You ain’t who you flippin’ say you are” is smeared on his garage. The aviary burns down. The police suspect arson.
Anonymous blackmail letters, threatening to “flippin’ expose him”, arrive for months. They are only found after his disappearance.
Friends notice a change in his personality. “He used to be so decisive” someone said “but now he just dilly-dallies”
His philanthropic interests begin to extend beyond avian creatures. To much surprise, he donates a llama to the Auckland Zoo. (After the truth about his adopted life is aired, the animal is affectionately referred to as the “Dally Llama”)
Djvd finally panics.
He sets out to face his nemesis, citing a reunion at the Fielding Agricultural High School and a shooting trip with an old friend.
Djvd was last seen at the Empire Tavern in Fielding, waiting – according to the barman – for “a bloke by the name of Owen, at least I think that’s what he called him. Maybe it was Evan. Something like that, anyway.”. He appears to have disappeared into thin air. No-one was ever arrested in connection his disappearance.
The news of the search made national headlines, this time reaching Mititai. Eyes are opened, questions are asked, DNA samples are retrieved from various asphalt surfaces in Devonport and compared with those of Djvd’s Croatian kin up north.
A perfect match.
New Zealand’s greatest fraudster is unmasked.