Jacket leads police to grave

2014-06-16 00:00

A BLOODY jacket balled up in the boot of a car has cracked the mystery of a missing Durban woman — and led police to a shallow grave near Maritzburg.

The family of Phumzile Mkhize embarked on a nine-day search since the 42-year-old mother-of-two went missing after work on June 6.

But The Witness has established that an unrelated tip to Maritzburg SAPS led to a string of clues left by the breathtaking cold-heartedness of Mkhize’s boyfriend.

Police sources alleged that the suspect buried Mkhize in an old pit latrine in Sweetwaters — and then brazenly sold her car to three Maritzburg men with her blood-stained jacket still inside.

Yesterday, an SAPS search and rescue officer took an hour to carefully dig her body out by hand, after the man, who police identified as her 26-year-old boyfriend, had pointed out the site.

The gory plot unravelled when three men were arrested for being in possession of Mkhize’s red Polo Vivo.

An interrogation of the suspects on the identity of the seller triggered a swoop by heavily armed police officers on a house in Chesterville, during which her lover was taken into custody.

A source close to the investigation, who could not be named as he is not authorised to speak to the press, said that the blood stained jacket found in the car was the lynchpin of the police investigation.

“We had no idea that the jacket would be so significant. It was found in the boot of the car and it spurred on our investigation,” he said.

“We then used that item of evidence as a point of questioning for the suspects and it led us to another man in Durban who had given them the car. We followed up leads in the early hours of the morning,” he added.

“On questioning the man, he admitted to killing Mkhize and then concealing her murder by burying her in the shallow grave in Sweetwaters,” he said.

Mkhize’s distraught mother yesterday told the paper: “The family has decided that since we are not sure about anything, we would not be commenting on it. The detectives have told us that a body was discovered somewhere there in Pietermaritzburg but we have not gone there to identify it.”

Police spokesperson Colonel Jay Naicker said: “Her family reported her missing on Sunday last week after she didn’t come home from work and this morning her body was found,” he said.

“Police investigations revealed that on Friday, 6 June, the suspect met her at her place of work in kwaMashu and they left her office together in her car. On Sunday her family realised that she was missing and reported her missing to police. Her vehicle was recovered by police in Sweetwaters near Pietermaritzburg and three suspects were arrested after they were found in possession of her car. After further investigation detectives were able to identify who was behind her disappearance. The 26-year-old man was arrested by detectives on Saturday. Her body was exhumed by detectives and the police’s Search and Rescue Unit,” Naicker added.

“The investigation was carried out jointly by detectives from Plessislaer and Inanda with the assistance of members of the Tactical Response Team. The suspect is expected to appear in the Ntuzuma Magistrate’s Court on Tuesday on a charge of murder. At this stage it is still unclear why the suspect murdered Miss Mkhize, who we think was murdered shortly after she left work,” he said.

Provincial Commissioner Lieutenant-General Mmamonnye Ngobeni hailed officers for the arrest.

“It is because the dedication and expertise of our police officers that this case was solved. It is tragic that what was a missing person’s case has now been confirmed as a murder,” she said. — Additional reporting by Thamsanqa Magubane.

• jeff.wicks@witness.co.za

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