Durban - A week-long search for Durban North woman Siam Lee ended tragically and horribly on Thursday, with the discovery of her charred, assaulted body on a Midlands sugar cane farm.
A relative on Thursday identified the remains, according to non-police sources close to the investigation and the hunt for the 20-year-old.
Police have confirmed a murder investigation, but have not confirmed the identity of the victim pending the results of DNA tests.
Lee was last seen outside her workplace in Margaret Maytom Drive in Durban North last Thursday. Her family widely appealed for her safe return, via newspapers and video footage on social media.
Police on Wednesday released the identikit of a man they believe could assist them in their inquiries. According to information the police received, he fetched Lee in a black Mercedes Benz Vito with unknown Gauteng registration plates.
Four independent sources told The Mercury yesterday that the body had been identified as that of Lee.
CEO of security company Mobi-Claw, Mike Myers, said information surrounding the murder investigation was “extremely sensitive” at this stage. But the body had been identified.
“A family member did identify the body but the police still want to do DNA tests to confirm,” Myers said.
Police spokesperson, Lieutenant-Colonel Thulani Zwane, said police were now investigating a case of murder and said it appeared the deceased had been assaulted and then set alight.
“The badly burnt body of a woman was recovered in a sugar cane farm by the farm owner on January 6,” Zwane said. This was two days after she went missing.
“DNA analysis will be conducted to determine the identity, cause of death and possible date of death. An inquest docket was opened at New Hanover police station for investigation,” Zwane said.
A source close to the investigation said police and private investigators from various organisations had worked around the clock to find the woman.
“We checked her social media, to see where she liked to hang out, who her friends were, if there had been any fights or disagreements ... We tried to piece together her life through those platforms.”
He said that a patroller from a neighbourhood watch group had reported a sighting of her this week, but the body had been discovered on Saturday.
“We found through our investigations that, since she had gone missing, the vehicle in question had been to Johannesburg and back.”
Security company Mobi-Claw said on its Facebook page that the family had identified the body as Lee.
“This young girl was a victim of terrible circumstance, may she rest in peace. This has been a very complex investigation that led in so many directions, taking us into a dark underworld.”
It said that a “massive team effort had been launched from the get go to try and find her.
“Thank you to the rest of the team who all put in an immense amount of hours, dedication and passion. Special thanks to Durban North SAPS, Durban North SAPS Reservists, Durban Flying Squad, SAPS Durban South K9, Durban North CPF, Allan Carey and Marshall Security.”
Marshall Security said on its Facebook page that the team had worked “non-stop behind the scenes” with various roleplayers and was devastated by the outcome.
“It’s been a very long and hard week for us. We hope that having found Siam will bring some form of closure to her loved ones and we will continue to support the SAPS with ongoing investigations into this case.”