Killer prowls old-age homes

2018-08-01 15:30
A barbed wire security fence surrounds Jacaranda Lodge retirement facility in Pietermaritz St where a 89-year-old resident was found murdered on Tuesday morning.

A barbed wire security fence surrounds Jacaranda Lodge retirement facility in Pietermaritz St where a 89-year-old resident was found murdered on Tuesday morning. (Ian Carbutt)

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Fears are mounting that a serial killer targeting retirement homes may be on the loose, following the murder of another pensioner in Pietermaritzburg.

The 89-year-old woman was found murdered with her throat slit, at her apartment in the Jacaranda Lodge retirement complex, on Tuesday morning.

It is the second recent murder at the complex.

A 70-year-old pensioner, who lives at the lodge, said the recent murders had sent everyone into a panic.

“I’ve been a resident here for two years. We haven’t had anything like this before. It’s disheartening at a time where we are supposed to be enjoying our last days on Earth,” said the pensioner.

The daughter of another pensioner, who asked to remain unnamed, said: “The home took on an extra patrolling security guard after the first murder. The sides and back of the building are vulnerable and we’ve had opportunistic thefts in the past.

“The current modus operandi is climbing the drainpipes and it’s perhaps the same killer. The first Jacaranda Lodge victim was on the third floor and it’s a helluva climb. The person would need to be strong or mad or both,” said the woman.

A police source, who asked to remain unnamed for the fear of reprisals, said there is now fear that it may be a serial killer, adding that the murders have been the subject of special police meetings.

The unresolved murders of two other elderly residents in the city in July, who were killed two weeks apart, had already raised tensions.

Pietermaritzburg police spokesperson Captain Khosi Khonjelwayo said the body of the woman, whose name she could not confirm but which is known to The Witness, was found at about 8.15 am.

Pietermaritzburg Central police station spokesperson Captain Khosi Khonjelwayo at Jacaranda Lodge as police investigated the second murder there. 

Khonjelwayo said they suspect that the perpetrator gained access to the property from the back.

She said that at around 5 am on Tuesday, police had responded to another attempted break-in at the lodge and that it was not clear whether the murder happened before or after that incident.

While she dispelled rumours of a possible serial killer, Khonjelwayo said the series of murders was alarming.

“We are very concerned. The police will do all possible to make sure that whoever is responsible for all or any these murders is brought to book.”

The first victim, 92-year-old Patricia O’Connor, was found murdered at the Kenwyn Retirement Home, next door to Jacaranda Lodge.

O’Connor was strangled to death on July 11 by an intruder who had apparently climbed over a high wall and into the property.

Read: Woman (92) slain in home

The second victim, Roland Heathcote (89), who did not have the use of his legs, was found dead from one stab wound to the right side of the head in his third-floor room at Jacaranda Lodge on July 21.

Read: Terror at old age home

The third victim’s body was discovered lying on the floor in her second-floor room on Tuesday.

The gruesome discovery was made by an in-house nurse.

A source said the pensioner had been a resident at the lodge for eight years.

An employee who asked to remain unnamed said the pensioner’s body was discovered after they were alerted by her hairdresser that she was not opening the door.

“She had an appointment with the hairdresser for 8 am. When [the hairdresser] tried knocking on the door there was no response. She suspected that something was amiss and alerted one of the nurses.”

The employee said the nurse, who has a spare key, went to the flat and made the grisly discovery.

“We heard screams and when we went to investigate what was going on, the nurse informed us that [the woman] had been killed.

“We are all shocked.”

“She was very friendly, partly active, still driving and did her own shopping.”

According to police, a pair of scissors with blood stains, believed to be the murder weapon, was found at the scene.

Khonjelwayo said it is unclear if anything was taken from the woman’s flat.

She said police believed the person managed to get into the flat by climbing the drainpipes and breaking in through the window.

Khonjelwayo said no arrests had yet been made in connection with the first two murders.

Another employee at the lodge said: “It’s terrible. These are old people who have no means to defend themselves. They are vulnerable.

“The police must do something to protect the most vulnerable members of our society,” added the employee.

A resident of Pietermaritz Street, up the road from the lodge, said crime in the area had escalated.

“We have an entire open area of the waste pickers next door to this old age home. It’s hard to say who is doing this, but crime has increased enormously.”

Brian Lodge, the chairperson of Jacaranda Lodge, declined to comment on the matter as it was being handled by police.

However, he told The Witness that he was “absolutely devastated”.

“We’ve gone through all the security upgrades to make the lodge safe but the criminals still manage to get in.”

Lodge said that following the last incident, they had hired four extra security guards to patrol at night.

Read more on:    pietermaritzburg  |  crime

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