Gang slay top artist

2014-01-02 00:00

ONE of Durban’s best artistic exports, who had exhibited his artwork from New York to London, was shot and killed in a home invasion while visiting friends in Westville.

Clinton de Menezes (43), living in Nairobi, Kenya, was on a two-week holiday with his wife Nicola and seven-year-old daughter Eva for Christmas and to celebrate their one-year wedding anniversary when he was shot in the heart.

He was killed as several men, some armed, forced their way into a home on Waterfall Avenue, Westville, early on Tuesday morning, stealing handbags, wallets, a laptop and cellphones.

But within hours of the murder the Durban Metro Dog Unit, SAPS and traffic police arrested four suspects who had used a meter taxi to escape with the stolen goods. Police seized a 9mm pistol and a toy gun believed to have been used in the robbery. Just hours later, another five men were arrested. At least three of the men are from the Congo. One suspect is believed to be the ringleader of a syndicate operating in the in the Westville, Pinetown and Malvern areas.

Clinton’s sister, Jacqui du Randt, said Clinton was the “glue that held the family together”.

“The last few days have been hell. Nicola is devastated. Their first wedding anniversary was on December 28. They came to get married in Durban and now Clinton came here to die.

“It is all so tragic. Eva knows what has happened. She saw her father’s body lying on the floor as it was only removed four hours after the incident. There is much this young girl will have to deal with,” said Du Randt.

The De Menezes family had been staying at the Westville home of Simon and Amanda Malpas since December 20 and were expected to leave on Saturday.

Simon said Nicola and Eva had gone to bed while he, Amanda and Clinton remained up.

The attack came at about 1 am.

“Clinton had nipped off to the bathroom when Amanda heard the dogs barking. We turned down the music and went onto the balcony to investigate when suddenly two faces popped up over the balcony railings.

“I grabbed a plastic chair and hit one of the men and then we ran inside. We slammed the balcony door shut and attempted to lock it but two of the men were trying to open the door.

“By this stage Nicola and Eva were awake and Amanda joined them, along with Clinton, in bathroom and locked the door. Nicola had even put Eva in the laundry basket and closed the lid,” said Simon.

He said he continued to struggle with the door when there was a loud bang and the glass next to the door shattered. Realising that holding the door was now futile, he ran to the main bedroom and locked himself inside, thinking everyone else was locked in the bathroom.

“When the intruders left I went back to the lounge where I saw Clinton lying very still on the lounge floor.”

He had gone to neighbours to call the police, who had arrived in minutes.

“When I got back home I realised Clinton was dead. He had been shot in the heart. I still don’t know if the intruders were aiming at me or him when they fired,” said Malpas.

Just three months prior the Malpases were robbed by a gang of five men who tied them up before cleaning them out.

“We haven’t even thought of moving. There is much we need to think about,” he said.

Police spokesperson Captain Thulani Zwane said the arrested suspects are aged between 25 and 30 years and will appear in the Pinetown Magistrate’s Court today facing charges of murder and house robbery.

De Menezes, a respected South African artist who held a Masters in Fine Art from the Durban University of Technology, had his work shown at several galleries, with the highlight being an artwork called Procession (Exodus) in the contemporary galleries of the Metropolitan Museum of Art, New York in 2010.

In 2011 he won the tender for a major commission for the new offices of PricewaterhouseCoopers in London. The commission saw him create over 9 000 unique human figurines — each representing one employee of PWC in offices across the world.

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