Mark Robson

Sameer Naik

He loved sport. He enjoyed attending the Durban July. He made people laugh with the jokes he cracked.

And to his older sister, Cathy, he was a friend who truly understood her.

And then on January 26, Mark Robson from KwaZulu-Natal was found strangled on a deserted beach in Phuket, Thailand.

His family did not learn of his fate until February 12.

It was devastating news to them. And the unanswered questions around his death haunt the Robson family.

“I miss him terribly,” a distraught Cathy said this week.

His memory, she said, would remain for ever engraved on her heart.

“He was a sweet, caring, sensitive, warm, loving person who always worried about me and protected me.”

The pieces in the puzzle have slowly been coming together.

Cathy’s parents, Keith and Merneen, were concerned when their son did not catch his scheduled flight to Taipei, Taiwan, early this month.

Mark, 27, was to have taken up a post as an English teacher at a school in Taipei.

According to his e-mails to his parents, he arrived in Phuket on December 5, then travelled alone to Koh Samui, Patong, Karon and Nai Yang.

The last time they heard from him was on January 15 when he wrote that he was in Nai Yang.

When there were no e-mails after that, the family began to worry.

They sought the help of a foreign volunteers group in Thailand in trying to locate their son.

A picture of Mark was sent to newspapers.

An editor who had also seen a picture of a man whose body had been found on Phuket’s Freedom Beach in January noted the resemblance between this man and Mark.

The Phuket News reported that the Robsons had confirmed the body in the photograph was their son’s, particularly after recognising his T-shirt.

Merneen expressed her grief on social networking site Facebook. She said the family were devastated.

“Our darling son Mark had been missing in Thailand and we were informed last night that his body had been found in Phuket,” she posted on her Facebook page.

“We had seen him over there for a few days while on holiday in January, but lost e-mail contact after January 15. We are absolutely devastated to have lost our very special boy.”

Then the tributes started pouring in.

Janine Beckley-Setzkorn, a colleague of Mark’s at Unilever, described him as a “very lovely guy”.

“I knew Mark in passing through the Unilever building. He was a lovely guy, with a gentle persona. He definitely did not deserve this. I am truly sad for him and the family. Condolences to all,” she said.

Another colleague at Unilever said: “Myself and Mark left for overseas at the same time and helped each other with leaving work. Had a few drinks and laughs with him too. Such a brilliant and friendly guy. You will be missed, this is terrible news.”

Robson matriculated from Hilton College in 2002 and completed degrees in marketing and law at the University of KwaZulu-Natal in Pietermaritzburg before joining Unilever. He left the company in September.

Cathy is feeling the loss of her brother deeply.

This week she painted a loving picture of him.

“He was fun-loving and very spiritual, and had such a great sense of humour,” she said.

“He was the kind of person who loved spending time with his friends and particularly enjoyed attending sports events like rugby, cricket, and the Durban July.”

The Robson family are battling to arrange for Mark’s remains repatriated to South Africa. They also face a struggle to find out who killed him and why and to have the killer or killers brought to justice.