Student killings link probed
Durban - Police are probing a possible link in the horrific murders of two young Durban students – who were both stabbed in their VW Golf cars within a day of each other – after three suspects were arrested on Wednesday.
Good Samaritan Kurtlee Benjamin Pillay, 20, of Overport, who apparently went to the aid of a group of men he thought were stranded on Steven Dlamini (Essenwood) Road next to their black Golf, and was attacked and stabbed more than 20 times late on Tuesday night.
The callous robbers took off in his car, at some point dragging him on the road.
In the incident on Monday, third year student Shrivaar Panday, 22, was stabbed in his red Golf.
Pillay’s family members said that when they went to identify his body, they found that his clothes had been shredded and his fingers worn down into bloody stumps.
His feet were also raw from the dragging.
Pillay, a part-time student, suffered a cardiac arrest and succumbed to his injuries as paramedics tried to save him.
He was found in West Riding Row Street, near an Engen garage in Sherwood.
Netcare 911 spokesman Chris Botha confirmed that the wounds were consistent with Pillay being stabbed and dragged on a tar road.
Police said he had also been run over by his own vehicle, a blue VW Golf, and dragged for at least 500m.
Pillay’s family were in shock.
“He never would have hurt anyone. He was such a lovely boy.
“Why would you do this to someone?” said his distraught grandmother who burst into tears.
An uncle said that Pillay had recently begun work at a call centre in uMhlanga and was enjoying it.
“He was just so happy.
“We all saw him so recently and it’s just so difficult to believe that we won’t ever see him again.”
Police close to the investigation into Pillay’s murder on Tuesday night said the young man had stopped to give a group of men in a black VW Golf a battery boost after seeing them pulled over at the side of Essenwood Road.
“The docket is clear, it names Essenwood as the scene of the crime. From there we are not certain how they ended up where his body was found, but we are still questioning them (the suspects) and following up on leads,” said a police source who cannot be named because he is not allowed to speak to the media.
He said there was a “strong possibility” that the two crimes could be connected.
“We are still exploring all the possibilities but certain things between the two incidents are similar.”
The three suspects were taken into custody by Inspector Thavenderan “TG” Govender, Inspector Shalendra Singh and Constable Sthembiso Bukhosini of the metro police K9 unit on Wednesday morning after they received a tip-off from a security guard at a Durban beachfront hotel.
The guard had seen what he described as a “suspicious vehicle” – which turned out to be Pillay’s car – with no number plates attached.
Its left side was also smeared with blood.
The police source said that they had determined that the car was linked to a hijacking or murder.
While police were talking to the security guard and examining the vehicle, two of the suspects arrived at the hotel’s parkade.
The suspects, in their early twenties and still covered in blood, saw police and fled.
The police gave chase for about 1km from Tyzack Street near the hotel into Anton Lembede (Smith) Street where the pair and another man were apprehended. The third man had been waiting in the road, in a black Golf for the other two and appeared surprised to see them with police on their tails.
Upon their capture and search, the keys to Pillay’s vehicle were found in the pocket of one of them, the source said.
The trio were taken to Sydenham police station.
Pillay’s vehicle has been impounded by police who are currently examining it for hair fibres, fingerprints and blood.
The suspects’ clothes were also seized and they were given prison overalls to wear.
Knives and screwdrivers – which might not be linked to the crime – were found in the alleged getaway vehicle.
“A dog which specialises in sniffing out blood and semen will be sent from Pietermaritzburg to try to find the weapon used in the stabbing. We’ve been told that they threw it into some bushes near where he was found,” the source said.
He explained that hijacking a vehicle for parts was a “lucrative trade” and using parts acquired this way was far cheaper.
“You could easily pay someone between R5 000 and R7 000 to hijack a car, use the parts you need and then scrap the rest. If you bought spares through a dealership you could pay up to R100 000,” he said.
Durban cartoonist Nanda Soobben, founder of the Centre for Fine Art Animation and Design (CFAD), said that Pillay had been in his third year of graphic design at the centre.
“He was a promising artist and was very fun-loving. Whenever I was in my office and he would drive in I would hear the loud music from his car. You could hear it from all the way down the road,” he said.
Soobben condemned the manner in which Pillay was murdered and said he suspected that both students had been attacked because they were “soft” targets.