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A dark cloud hung over Newlands cricket ground on Thursday after the news broke that former Western Province cricketer John Eugene Commins was murdered at his family home in Newlands on Wednesday night.
The 71-year-old, who played for Western Province Cricket Union in the ’60s, is the youngest brother of Western Province CEO Kevin Commins and the uncle of former Proteas cricketer John Commins.
Commins shared the house on Oak Avenue in Newlands with his wife Cherie.
The couple were at home at 10.45pm on Wednesday when three men climbed through an open bedroom window and tied them up in separate rooms.
Police said the men held Commins’s wife and tied her up, ordering her not to scream.
The home invaders then ransacked the house, before making off with jewellery and an undisclosed amount of cash.
After they were gone, Commins’s wife managed to untie herself and make her way to her husband. But by the time she found him tied up on his bed he was already dead. Police said they found no signs of visible injury. At this stage, they believe Commins was suffocated, but a post-mortem is being conducted to determine the exact cause of death.
At the time of going to print, the identity of the suspects was still unknown and police are not sure which direction the suspects fled after leaving the house.
Residents in the upmarket area remained tight-lipped on Thursday, with an eerie silence descending on Oak Avenue. “I didn’t see or hear anything,” said Commins’s next door neighbour over the intercom before hanging up.
The Western Province Cricket Association showed its support by lowering the flags at Sahara Park Newlands in tribute to the former cricketer.
“What was planned as an occasion for joy and the sharing of memories has been plunged into (sorrow),” said the organisation in a statement.
Andre Odendaal, CEO of the Western Province Cricket Association, said Commins had collected tickets to come and watch the Sunfoil Test Series on Wednesday.
“He was meant to come watch (Thursday), meet all his ex-union buddies and catch up with old friends,” said Odendaal. “It was a real shock to get the news. He would’ve been sitting up in the box with his daughter.”
In a statement sent to the Cape Argus, the Commins family said: “We are absolutely devastated at the sudden and tragic death of our father, grandfather and husband: John Eugene Commins.
“We are overwhelmed at the messages of support and condolences. He was our mentor and hero, he will leave a gaping hole in our lives. From Cherie, Donne, Greg, Brendon, Amanda, Noah, Ben, Sam.”
Cricket SA and Castle Lager’s farewell day for Mark Boucher, which was scheduled to take place on Friday, has been postponed at the request of the former Proteas wicketkeeper – John Commins’s daughter, Donne, was Boucher’s agent. “Donne has been very close to me for most of my career and has been much more to me than a business partner,” said Boucher.
Jacques Kallis tweeted: “Thoughts and prayers with @DonneCommins and family. Tragic news. Something really has to be done about the crime in this country #deathpenalty”