Swift action from Detective Warrant Officer Shaun Bardien and his colleagues from the Serious and Violent Crimes (SVC) detectives unit resulted in the arrest of an undocumented murderer within weeks of the brutal crime.
In November 2018 the murder of John Curran was brought to the attention of the Cape Town Central SVC. The 60-year-old Irish aid worker had been found dead in his Buitengracht Street apartment in the City Bowl, by a domestic worker.
Mr Curran had just finished his tenure as director of education for Mellon Educate in South Africa.
The police were informed and Detective Bardien responded.
He has a vivid recollection of the scene. “It was the 7th of November, in 2018. We were called to the scene after the maid found him there. His body was in the bathroom,” the detective started.
“We immediately got hold of the CCTV footage and could see that a man, a possible suspect, entered the building and the apartment of the deceased.
“The footage also shows him leaving. We could see the face but we did not know who he was. The footage also revealed that the suspect was there on the 6th of November. A friend of the deceased also confirmed that he last saw him (John Curran) on the 6th of November.”
A knife was found at the scene as well as a frying pan which had been used to hit Mr Curran, and despite finding fingerprints, the suspect could not be linked to a name or address as he was not on any identification systems.
“We released the pictures via the media and we received information that I followed up on. That’s all we had, just a face, no name. We received a tip-off that he was in Goodwood, that he worked in that area and we went there to observe the region where we believed he was. We went there the morning and didn’t see anyone and some of the detectives had other business to attend to and we left.
“But later on I went back and I was driving down the road and saw him (suspect) standing there in the area we were observing earlier.
“I recognised him from the footage that I had watched. I called my colonel and the detectives and we made the arrest.
“I believe he was a cleaner at the club because at the time I arrested him he was packing toilet paper in the bathroom of the club. I told him I was arresting him and he didn’t look surprised. That was on the 23rd of November; it was a Friday,” said the 49-year old detective.
A phone had been taken from Mr Curran’s apartment and the suspect had sold it at a Cash Crusaders in Parow. The footage from that sale was also added to the evidence to prosecute him.
“Bail was denied as he was a flight risk. He was an illegal immigrant and also the seriousness of this murder was taken into account. We went to the place where he lived and the residents there told us that he was planning to leave Cape Town and possibly the country that weekend. So he was arrested and in jail from that time until he was sentenced.”
On Tuesday June 1, the suspect, a Congolese man by the name of Mitspa Oyoka, was sentenced to 18 years in jail for the murder of Mr Curran.
“About a week after the murder we met with relatives of the deceased. We explained the process of how we work and we did not make any promises, but I told them that I would do my best to apprehend the suspect.
“I mean we did not have a name for the suspect, just footage and fingerprints. We followed up on this case and made the arrest two weeks later. I was in contact with the family and they were happy that we caught him and that he was locked up. I’m sure that this sentence will give them closure too.”