SA man strangled in Phuket
Estelle Sinkins, The Witness
Pietermaritzburg - A KwaZulu-Natal family’s anxious search for news of their missing son turned to grief at the weekend when Thai authorities told them his body had been found.
It was discovered near a deserted beach on Phuket island.
Merneen and Keith Robson became concerned when Mark, 27, failed to catch a flight to Taipei earlier this month.
Although neither the Thai authorities nor the South African international relations department were able to positively confirm the news of Mark’s death on Sunday, the Witness has learnt from Jessica Kretzmann, a close friend of Mark's, that his family has been left “shocked and utterly devastated” by the news.
She added: “Mark and I dated for four years and we remained close friends. He was a very special person, very loyal, charming, and he had an incredible sense of humour.”
And in a moving tribute on her Facebook page, Mark’s mother, Merneen, wrote: “We are absolutely devastated to have lost our very special boy.”
Asked why he had left South Africa to take up a post teaching English in Taipei, Kretzmann said simply: “He wanted to travel and to broaden his horizons.” He had been able to share that passion with his parents, who, shortly before his death, spent a few days with him in Thailand in January.
Kretzmann said Mark’s parents and his sisters, Julie and Cathy, were grateful to everyone who had helped with the search for Mark. They also asked people to respect their privacy at this time and to remember Mark as the very special person that he was.
Mark was due to begin teaching English in Taipei, but did not board the flight from Thailand as expected.
His parents got in touch with Phuket Tourist Police Foreign Volunteers group leader, Frank Tomenson, via e-mail. Tomenson sent a new photo of Mark - taken while he was on holiday in Thailand - to all the media outlets in the area, asking for information.
The Phuket Gazette news editor noted the resemblance between Mark and images of a body that had been recovered at Freedom Beach in January.
Police found the dead man, who had been strangled and was in a seated position, on January 25, just two days after Mark last used an ATM machine.
The authorities are still investigating the case. Believing the two cases might be linked, the newspaper got in touch with Tomenson, supplied him with the images they had and asked if the police had investigated whether the body was that of Mark Robson.
Tomenson in turn contacted Mark’s parents, who live in Gillitts, telling them that a body had been found and that it matched the description of their son.
“Mr Tomenson was reluctant to forward the photos, but finally sent a single image at the family’s request. The family now believe the previously unidentified body is that of their son,” the Phuket Gazette reported.
Mark Robson matriculated at Hilton College in 2002 and completed degrees in marketing and law at the University of KwaZulu-Natal’s Pietermaritzburg campus. He later worked at Unilever, remaining with the company until September last year.