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Durban - Colleen Heslop knew the moment her sister-in-law arrived at her door early one morning in 2008 that the news was not good.
“She told me that they found a body at the soccer field,” she recalled. “It was Tersia, my daughter.”
Tuesday marks the fourth year, to the day that the battered body of 17-year-old Tersia Heslop was found at a soccer field in Wentworth, Durban. She had been beaten and stabbed.
Four years on and her killers are still at large, leaving her family – like the victims of the more than 11 000 murders that go unsolved in South Africa each year – with more questions than answers.
According to the SAPS annual report, the detection rate (the ability to solve cases) for the 15 940 people killed during the 2010/11 reporting period stood at 26.84 percent.
“That is quite a low success rate when compared to other countries,” said the head of the Institute for Security Studies’ Crime and Justice Programme, Gareth Newham.
“It is important to note that most countries around the world don’t solve more than half of their murders. So places in the UK, Canada and even Australia solve less than half of their murders,” he said.
“It is not something unique to South Africa. We have a much lower success rate to those countries because of our skills capacity.
“It is something we could improve on if we had more skills incentives. Without them we will never reach a stage where we can solve most murders.”
Newham said that theoretically, the police should have a higher success rate because between 60 and 80 percent of murders are committed by people known to the victim.
“Because of this, detectives should be able to narrow the suspect pool. The reason for the low success rate is due to a variety of reasons, including the fact that some detectives are not properly trained and are overburdened with too many dockets,” he said.
Heslop said that while she understood that the police were overworked,
they had still not brought her daughter’s killers to book – despite having given police leads in the case.
“So many people have told me who killed my daughter. But when I tell the police all this, they do nothing.
“I go to the police station almost every month and all they tell me is that there is not enough evidence.”
Heslop said murder had torn her family apart.
“She was my youngest daughter. I have two other daughters and a son. My husband never speaks about it and neither does my son,” she said.
“My 16-year-old son says that if he finds the person who killed Tersia, he will kill them. That worries me, because I know he would.
“My granddaughter looks exactly like her [Tersia] and that is very hard.
“Her birthday is on October 13 and we still celebrate it every year. Every morning I wake up and see her photo and start crying. My other children say I am throwing them away because I’m so obsessed with Tersia.”
Police spokesman Captain Thulani Zwane said two men had been arrested for Tersia’s murder but the case against them had been withdrawn in court.
“The case is still under investigation and if enough evidence is gathered, the case will be taken back to court,” Zwane said.
According to the latest crime statistics, SA’s murder rate has been steadily declining since it peaked at 27 000 in 1994/5. But far too many murders go unsolved.
Those that can afford to hire private investigators such as Port Elizabeth-based Christian Botha, who said he had solved numerous murders that detectives had given up on.
“I don’t blame the detectives at all for the low success rate. The guys are overworked,” he said.
“Last year I solved a case in 48 hours which had been unsolved for two years. By the time the family contacted me, the case had been passed through four detectives.
“When I approached the fourth detective he was happy to let me help him because he was sitting with 130 case dockets.”
Professor Rudolph Zinn, of Unisa’s School of Criminal Justice, said the average detective had a work load of 130 active dockets.
“The problem, I believe, lies in police’s middle management,” he said.
“A report compiled by retired officers 18 months ago revealed that managers do not give guidance to their subordinates on how to close a case, or they don’t know what guidance to give.
“Sometimes you can go back to a station several months later and you find nothing has been done with some case dockets.”
Heslop is not the only Wentworth mother struggling to find justice for her daughter’s murder.
Several families in the area are dealing with not only the grief of losing a loved one, but the trauma of losing that loved one to murder. - Daily News