Investigator reveals Siam Lee's final moments as murder accused dies
This assault had happened as Lee, 20, lay handcuffed to a balustrade in an Assagay home, her head covered in a blanket.
Private investigator Brad Nathanson recalls being told these details in January last year while he and police questioned the alleged killer, 30-year-old Philani Ntuli.
He has escaped facing trial because of his recent death from skin cancer.
Ntuli also had Aids, which he wanted to spread, Nathanson believes.
Among the string of charges Ntuli would have faced in the Durban High Court from July 19 were counts of murder, rape, fraud and abducting Lee from the Durban North brothel where she and her mother, Nan, worked in the adult entertainment industry.
“He said he had decided he would have to kill her (after raping her repeatedly at the balustrade) because she had said, no matter what, she would go to the police,” Nathanson told the Independent on Saturday this week.
“He tried to strangle her but that was not successful.”
During that process her legs had gone into a spasm and he could not stand seeing that, Nathanson said.
“So he said he went to the garage and fetched a hammer, placed a blanket over her head and hit her repeatedly.”
Nathanson said he found the reason Ntuli gave for striking her with a hammer particularly disturbing.
“He said he wanted to put her out of suffering these spasms, that he felt sorry for her.”
The private investigator said the way Ntuli recounted the story about Lee was “matter of fact”.
“No emotion, no crying. Usually confessions are full of tears.”
Nathanson believed Ntuli then panicked and went to a garage at Shongweni to buy 25 litres of petrol.
“He was there in one hour that the cameras were down but a petrol attendant recognised him. He knew Philani as a regular customer.”
Then, Ntuli went to Cato Ridge, intending to dispose of his victim, the private investigator continued.
“But there were people hanging around.”
So, he proceeded to New Hanover where a farmer taking his grandson fishing stumbled on Lee’s corpse in a sugar cane field, a week after she had been reported missing.
Nathanson is not sure where she died - in Ntuli’s Assagay home, at Cato Ridge or at New Hanover.
“A policeman called me from there to tell me she had been burnt. He was crying. I started crying. I had never met her but I had never cared so much about a case. I dropped to my knees and asked God to help me be the person to find this animal (Ntuli).”
Nathanson said Ntuli even described how and why he had abducted Lee.
“He said he had met Siam some months before the murder and lent her R50 000 ‘to get on with something’. She had promised to pay it back but did not.
“On the day (of the abduction) he said he had lost his patience with Siam and went to her room with handcuffs and a gun and demanded the money. He said Siam said she did not have it and he became further annoyed.
“He said he thought perhaps if ‘I take her, somebody else will come up with the money. Maybe her mother’.”
It came up during Ntuli’s bail application that his car had been involved in an accident not far from the Margaret Maytom Avenue house where Lee was last seen alive.
Nathanson said that when he followed up leads with an insurance company, it pointed to the same house a rape victim had suspected she had been taken to two years before, after being abducted.
“They showed me a Google image of the house. I sat bolt upright in the boardroom. The penny dropped. I felt like I had won the Lotto.”
The rape victim became a complainant in Ntuli’s case, having picked him out at an identity parade.
Nathanson said once he was at the address – 2 Controversy Lane in Assagay – he spotted the suspect’s car, a black Mercedes Viano, in the garage.
“He deliberately didn’t insure the vehicle and it was not in his name. There was also no tracking device.
“He didn’t realise that a Viano has its own tracking system installed by Mercedes, which put him right at the scene at Margaret Maytom Drive, the accident nearby and New Hanover.”
Ntuli’s defence advocate, Martin Krog, submitted during his bail hearing that Nathanson and his assistant, Shane Brits, had performed an unlawful arrest.
Nathanson insisted that before the incident “every cop was there”, but after 4pm it was only himself and Brits as well as Nathanson’s wife, Esme.
However, investigating officer Gordon Pillay had left temporarily to attend to a household chore, having told Nathanson to “grab him”, Nathanson said.
“I was told to do it by a policeman.” Nathanson and Brits pounced when they saw Ntuli looking confused to see his Viano missing from the garage, the police having taken it away on a flatbed, Nathanson said.
Inside the house, every drawer – even in the kitchen – had sex enhancing products such as Viagra and ginseng.
“But there were no condoms and no antiretrovirals.” Nathanson said he received a flood of correspondence from people who had been scammed by Ntuli’s offers to invest in fictitious companies and wanted their money back, and women going for job interviews that turned into his attempts to seduce them.
“I believe he was deliberately infecting people, living by the sword and dying by the sword.”IOS