Cape Town – “We are shocked and heartbroken. It is a bitter-sweet day for us.”
These were the words of Sandy Hess, the aunt of murdered University of the Western Cape (UWC) student Jesse Hess, following the news of a police breakthrough in the rape and murder of their daughter and her 85-year-old grandfather, Chris Lategan.
A 31-year-old relative, positively linked to a recent rape of a Hanover Park teenager, was taken in for questioning.
The suspect, who was reportedly out on parole at the time of the crimes, was arrested for rape and robbery just before 1pm yesterday after police received a tip-off on his whereabouts from residents of Struisbaai near Hermanus.
Police spokesperson FC van Wyk said the suspect was on the run since Monday after he allegedly robbed and raped a 16-year-old Hanover Park girl.
“He was positively linked in the Hanover Park incident and will appear on Friday at the Athlone Magistrate’s Court on charges of rape and robbery,” he said.
Van Wyk said the suspect became a person of interest in the investigation of a double murder that happened on August30, understood to be Hess and her grandfather, after circumstantial evidence linked him to the crimes.
Hess, a first-year UWC theology student, who would have turned 19 last month, was found dead on her bed, while Lategan was found tied up and gagged in the toilet of their one-bedroom flat in Parow.
A TV set, two cellphones and Hess’s backpack were stolen from the house.
“The family is relieved that after three months of agony there is a lead.
“We are also shocked because the suspect is my (relative), and we are a very close family that loves and supports each other.
"Jesse grew up in front of him, they would meet at all the special occasions and family celebrations,” Sandy Hess said.
She said the family had not seen any sign of the relative as he didn’t attend Jesse’s funeral or 19th birthday commemoration.
According to Sandy, she was informed the suspect had allegedly tried to suffocate the Hanover Park teen, which appeared to be the same modus operandi used to rape and murder Hess.
It is alleged that the Hanover Park teenager was saved by her mother when she walked in and caught the suspect in the act. He fled and was last seen jumping into a taxi.
NPO Ilitha Labantu spokesperson Siyabulela Monakali said: “We certainly hope that with this breakthrough the justice system can rightly prosecute the alleged perpetrator so that justice can be served.
“Far too often cases are dismissed due to inconclusive evidence, and we urge that harsher sentences be imposed on perpetrators of sexual violence.”
Philisa Abafazi Bethu director Lucinda Evans asked how many women and children had to be victims before the government promised to curb gender-based violence were implemented.
“When will the president’s words come into action? Re-offenders of sexual crimes are still returning in our communities without being fully rehabilitated.
“A life has been ruined now and I believe Jesse’s case could have been handled with the priority that other recent cases were. The family has been waiting for DNA results for months now, why? It seems like other cases get special preference,” said Evans.