Cape Town - One of the four men arrested in connection with the murder of 21-year-old Olwyn Cowley in the so-called “Gumtree murder”, is a parolee who was once one of the Cape’s most wanted men.
Soegbudien Abvajee, 52, of Hazendal, Athlone, was the fourth man arrested in connection with the Cowley murder. The four appeared in Mitchells Plain Magistrate’s Court on Monday.
It was confirmed that Abvajee is on parole after being jailed for armed robbery.
A dig into the Cape Argus’s archives revealed that in February 2003 Abvajee was one of Cape Town’s most wanted men. An identikit picture of him was published showed him wearing what appeared to be a police cap, and it was reported that he wore a police uniform in the commission of robberies.
The 2003 Cape Argus report said Abvajee had been arrested for a bottle store robbery in Ottery in 2001. Wearing a police uniform, he and two other men had emptied the cash register and safe, and fled with more than R21 000 in cash. Abvajee was reported to have escaped from Pollsmoor Prison soon after being arrested in connection with this robbery.
At the time police suspected he was involved in other robberies around the Peninsula.
The trio arrested for the Ottery liquor store robbery appeared to have a modus operandi which included impersonating police officers to “arrest” and rob people.
A tactic they employed was to throw a plastic bag containing money on a pavement. When a pedestrian picked it up, the trio would emerge, identify themselves as police officers and take the victim to a secluded area where they would claim to need the person’s fingerprints for a robbery probe.
If the victim had a bank card, they would be ordered to withdraw all available money and hand it over for the “police” to “match” the money against that in the plastic bag.
The men would then flee with the cash.
Western Cape police spokesman Captain Frederick van Wyk confirmed on Monday that Abvajee was on parole after being jailed for armed robbery.
Police did not release the particulars of the crime for which Abvajee was jailed, saying that information may prejudice the accused in terms of applying for bail in the Cowley murder case.
Jason Elias, 30, and Shawaal Staggie, 26, both of Mitchells Plain, and Rameez Felix, 29, and Abvajee, both of Hazendal, appeared in court on Monday and had their case postponed to Tuesday. It is alleged the men planned Cowley’s murder and lured him to his death after responding to an advert on Gumtree, a classifieds website.
Cowley was last seen on August 30 after he left home to meet men who had expressed an interest in buying his BMW 325ti, which he had advertised on Gumtree.
The meeting was supposed to have taken place at Century City.
Cowley’s body was found with two gunshot wounds to the head at Monwabisi beach in Khayelitsha the next day. His car was later found in Mitchells Plain, where one of the suspects was arrested.
According to the charge sheet, the State alleges that the men acted as a group in planning Cowley’s murder.
The men will remain in custody at Pollsmoor Prison until their next court appearance.