Outrage after 'renowned' UCT professor dies

Time of article published Nov 19, 2007

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By Karen Breytenbach

The death of law professor Mike Larkin in a mugging in Rondebosch on Friday has devastated his colleagues, students and the wider academic and legal communities.

Larkin was walking to his flat from a University of Cape Town animal ethics committee session when he was confronted by two men in quiet, leafy Roslyn Road.

It appears the men tried to take his bag and that when he resisted, one man stabbed him repeatedly with a knife, killing him. Police spokesperson Elliot Sinyangana said no arrests had been made yet.

It is understood Larkin was partially sighted.

He joined UCT in January last year and was a member of its senate, head of the commercial law department and taught advanced company law to students and post-graduates. The popularity of the Masters in commercial law course increased sharply after he joined.

Hugh Corder, dean of the law faculty, said Larkin was a much-loved lecturer and important mentor to younger staff members.

The intermediate LlB class expressed their "deep sadness" at the death of their professor and extended their condolences to his family and close friends.

"Professor Larkin was a dear and gentle man, who treated his students with patience and understanding," student Uday Naidoo said on behalf of the class.

"His kind manner made us all feel so nurtured by him. He was ever-available and always supportive, grooming us to be lawyers of excellent calibre. The violent manner of his death fills us all with grief and outrage at the senselessness of this act, perpetrated against a man as peaceful as he was."

The students said they hoped his death would inspire people to stand together to prevent crime, instead of only wanting retribution.

Corder said "every single person" he had told of Larkin's death on Friday night was "completely devastated".

There had been a "huge outpouring of outrage and sympathy" from senior judges, academics and legal practitioners, many of whom were close friends of Larkin, Corder said.

"The brutal randomness of this killing … (of a) decent, wonderful, humane human, who had no enemies, makes it even worse."

Acting vice-chancellor Martin West said UCT was "deeply saddened by Larkin's death and horrified at the manner in which it occurred".

"He was one of the country's top company lawyers and renowned for his expertise … His passing is a tremendous loss to the university."

Larkin moved to UCT from the University of the Witwatersrand, where he had lectured for 35 years while also being a consultant to Johannesburg law firm Edward Nathan and Friedland. He became a professor in 1990, and served two terms as chair of the governing committee of Wits Law School, a position equal to deputy dean.

He had begun his career with a Sandton firm of attorneys.

Corder said Larkin was in the middle of marking papers, but an assessment of everything he had been working on would be done this week.

Larkin was divorced and is survived by his partner, an adult daughter living in England, a brother in Cape Town, and a sister in Johannesburg.

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