Charlie Soobben, left, was attacked 
outside Omar Khayyam Restaurant in Isipingo in 1985. His brother Teddy, above, was found shot dead in a ditch along the banks of the Umgeni River in 1995.
Charlie Soobben, left, was attacked 
outside Omar Khayyam Restaurant in Isipingo in 1985. His brother Teddy, above, was found shot dead in a ditch along the banks of the Umgeni River in 1995.
Charlie Soobben, left, was attacked 
outside Omar Khayyam Restaurant in Isipingo in 1985. His brother Teddy, above, was found shot dead in a ditch along the banks of the Umgeni River in 1995.
Charlie Soobben, left, was attacked 
outside Omar Khayyam Restaurant in Isipingo in 1985. His brother Teddy, above, was found shot dead in a ditch along the banks of the Umgeni River in 1995.
The recent crime statistics show how vulnerable South Africans are. Behind every statistic is a human being. In this series, we look back on unsolved murders in KwaZulu-Natal. If you would like to share your story with us, email [email protected]

Durban - He and his only other surviving brother, Ganas Murthi, battle with their grief as they try to carve out a life as normal as possible for themselves and their families.

“We have been for counselling. Sibling grief must be common during these days, especially with the unsolved murders of so many daily. In our case, we cannot come to terms that the police are not effective and the justice system is such a failure,” said Soobben.

Nanda is the oldest of four sons, Ganas (Teddy) was second, followed by Devraj (Charlie) and Ganas Murthi (Popeye). All four were soccer mad and played for Colleens Football Club, an amateur team in Isipingo.

They played the game with great passion, and Charlie superseded all of them.

He was born on February 28, 1956, to Harry and Boomie Soobben.

This young footballer emerged on the sporting scene, two decades after the great Dharam Mohan, and was tipped to reach even greater heights.

Apartheid and murder robbed him of that glory.

“He rose to new heights, and like his siblings, played for Colleens Football Club. His abilities in the midfield, and as a striker, struck his opponents into shock and awe as he weaved patterns around the field before exploding the ball into the net,” said Soobben.

His magic on the field won Colleens a place in the Grand Challenge Cup hosted by the Southern Natal Soccer Board.

“He chose to play in the ranks of the South African Soccer Federation, which committed all its players to non-racialism in sport. He shared the view that everyone with merit had the right to represent South Africa,” said Soobben.

Charlie was signed up by professional club, Verulam Suburbs, and was able to travel South Africa, dazzling the fans, and even the opposition.

Then one night in 1985, he drove up to the Omar Khayyam Restaurant in Isipingo Rail, got out of his car in the parking lot and made his way to the entrance.

Whoever it was, silently crept up behind him and smashed his skull with a blunt instrument. He lay there in the cold night.

It was around 3am when his brother, Nanda, received a call from a friend to inform him that Charlie was at the R K Khan Hospital.

“When I got there, I was staggered. The doctor told me that they could not do anything to save Charlie. He was in a coma, and he was slipping away fast. I was so shocked that I almost collapsed and the nursing staff had to give me a drink of water,” said Soobben.

It was his heartbreaking task to return home to inform his parents and his aunt, Savathree, who had just arrived from Brazil for a visit.

“Ma,” he said. “Charlie passed away.”

Imagine the searing pain.

The family did not recover. Within a year, his father died, and not long after, his mother. The surviving brothers had to battle with their agony, and even therapy has not helped.

The new South Africa celebrated its first birthday on April 27, 1995, and on that day, Soobben’s other brother Teddy vanished.

He left home driving his Toyota Corolla. A young man with great hope, like so many South Africans.

President Nelson Mandela was leading the country, in what many people believed would be a new age of freedom. Not for Teddy - he just vanished.

Search parties went out looking for him and extensive enquiries were made at hospitals and mortuaries.

Then came the heartbreaking news that police had come across his body in a ditch on the banks of the Umgeni River. He had been shot and his body dumped.

“The police did not show much interest, nor did they even bother to give us any updates. It seems that they did not have any. It was just another case for them. That adds to our suffering,” he said.

Neither Teddy’s car nor his killers have been found.

“For us, the pain goes on. The grief at times uncontrollable. But we have to put on a brave front for the sake of our children. We have to ensure that they get the best chance to have a future. But each time, even at the best of times, we feel that searing pain,” said Soobben.

Sunday Tribune