Shannon Lee Roberts’s body was found in dense coastal bush at Doonside Beach in Amanzimtoti on November 14, 2014.
The Daily News has established that a police statement was never taken from her ex-boyfriend, Dylan Taljaard, who is now abroad, suspected to be travelling with false papers. Both were 18 at the time.
Taljaard’s father, Wynand, 57, believes his son is innocent and will return home to face trial.
He was scathing about social media commentary on the case.
“Dylan and my family have lived through hell over the last few years,” said Taljaard.
“Apart from him being made to look like a suspect and found guilty on social media, mainly by Roberts’s family, Dylan was never informed that he is a suspect. Eighteen months after he left South Africa in 2016, a warrant for his arrest was issued that I am sure he is not aware of,” said Taljaard.
He dismissed the suspicion that his son might be travelling on false papers. “What would be the need for that?”
He said his family last heard from Dylan when he was in South America in October last year, and had not heard from him since.
Shannon’s adoptive father, Gavin Roberts, does not believe Taljaard, and suspects his family have provided financial assistance to Dylan, enabling him to backpack abroad.
For Roberts, the pain of losing his daughter has been exacerbated by the frustration of witnessing police “botch” what he believed should have been a simple investigation.
“That afternoon (Friday, November 14, 2014) Shannon went down from a friend’s place to meet Dylan at the beach, and an hour or so later she was dead.
“Yet Dylan was never even taken in for questioning.
“Instead, when Dylan himself went with his father to the police station, presumably to confess, he was reportedly told by an officer not to incriminate himself but to rather speak to a lawyer first,” said Roberts.
Roberts said other damning flaws in the investigation - including a failure to study CCTV footage, examine cellphone records and satellite tracking of Shannon’s and Dylan’s phones at the time of the murder - had effectively let Dylan roam free instead of facing trial.
He said it was only after he put pressure on the Directorate of Public Prosecutions to intervene that progress was made.
A new team was appointed under Warrant Officer Rajan Govender of the Provincial Organised Crime Unit.
“After that, there was a complete about-turn leading to a warrant of arrest being issued for Dylan Taljaaard last year,” said Roberts.
He said given the “overwhelming circumstantial evidence” placing Dylan at the scene of the murder, a murder conviction was very likely if Dylan ever stood trial.
But police are battling to trace him.
“His last known whereabouts was Argentina when he posted pictures of himself on Facebook with new backpacking gear,” said Roberts.
Although Interpol was advised in October last year that Dylan was backpacking around the world, the agency has yet to publish pictures of Dylan, now 23, who has a large and distinguishing tattoo around his neck which reads “Pain is just a moment”.
A South African police source said “a movement control” showed that Dylan bought a ticket to Dubai in 2017.
“The passport does not show any movement out of Dubai, so that’s where the difficulty comes about, and the suspicion that he is travelling on false documentation,” said the source.
Police spokesperson Colonel Thembeka Mbele would not comment on the case, beyond stating that a warrant of arrest had been issued for a suspect after the matter had been transferred to a provincial task team for investigation.
Interpol also declined to comment about its “red notice” on Dylan not including a photograph or description of distinguishing features, including his tattoo.
“Interpol does not comment on specific cases or individuals except in special circumstances and with the approval of the member country concerned,” read the statement from Interpol’s press office.