Crime rules Phoenix: Two elderly victims killed in Phoenix robberies within 72 hours

Less than 72 hours apart, two pensioners were brutally murdered in separate robberies in Phoenix.

Lutchmanna George Papiah, 70, who lived at the Covenant Kingdom Ministries, was found dead inside the church in Trenance Manor, on Saturday morning

Published Mar 17, 2024


In less than 72 hours apart, two pensioners were brutally murdered in separate robberies in Phoenix.

Lutchmanna George Papiah, 70, who lived at the Covenant Kingdom Ministries, was found dead inside the church in Trenance Manor, on Saturday morning.

Police sources told the POST that Papiah was found gagged with cloth stuffed into his mouth and laying on his stomach with his hands tied to his legs behind his back.

On Monday morning, Ramrathee Munsamy, 77, was found strangled to death with her Punjabi scarf in the bathroom of her Sastri Park home. Munsamy was allegedly killed by her gardener.

Pastor Jerome Naidoo described Papiah’s death as sadistic and brutal.

“We believe that the robbery occurred on Friday night, when the suspects gained entry into the church by forcing open the door. George was tied up and gagged. The suspects ransacked the church and made off with equipment valued at over R500,000,” said Naidoo.

Naidoo said Papiah was found on Saturday morning by a cleaner, who had reported for duty.

“He had been wearing the same clothes from the previous day.”

Naidoo said police and an ambulance service were called to the scene but Papiah was already declared dead.

“George was a very dedicated and committed man of God. Our congregants at the church were fond of him. He was a father figure to everyone. We read about these types of crimes in the newspaper and we never expect it to be a reality for us. We are in a state of grief.”

Naidoo said Papiah had lived at the church for the past 10 years.

“I recently asked him if he wanted to be moved to an old age home, which the church would pay for but he declined, saying he was comfortable living on the premises. We can replace all the equipment that has been stolen but we cannot replace his life. The suspects could have taken what they wanted and left him but they chose to murder,” he said.

Naidoo said the church had previously experienced petty theft.

“We have been a part of this community for 13 years. We are involved in social upliftment programs like feeding distributions. We have had our aircons and pipes stolen from the church.”

He said one had to look at crime in the larger context of our country.

“The unemployment rate is at 40% and the majority are youth and young adults. The unemployment issue is having a knock-on effect on the socio-economic circumstances of people. This is leading them to drugs and crime. They are fighting for survival and places like churches which have equipment and are not occupied daily, are soft targets.”

Naidoo said South Africans needed hope.

“I have told our congregation that we cannot question what has happened but we can pray for hope and that the economy is revived to prevent crime from escalating.”

Papiah’s daughter, Kubashini Arumugam, an only child, said: “My father was a selfless man. He loved helping and caring for people in need. People would walk past the church and ask him for food and he always made something to give them. He never put himself first.”

Arumugam said when she went to view his body at the mortuary on Monday, he was still tied up.

“I just broke down because he was in that position from the time he was found. We were told by the mortuary staff that they could not touch his body until the post mortem was done. We are still in shock. He died a painful death…”

She said crime in Phoenix was on the rise and police needed to intensify visibility in the area.

“Drugs, unemployment and poverty among the young adults is contributing to the crime in the area. People can be seen taking drugs in broad daylight and nothing is being done about it. We need more effective policing and programmes to help drug addicts get their lives back on track.”

Arumugam said Papiah’s funeral was planned for Saturday.

When neighbours saw Ramrathee Munsamy’s front gate and door open, they suspected something was amiss and alerted her daughter.

When her daughter arrived at the house she reportedly noticed that the lounge had been ransacked.

A police source said: “The television set was on the couch, but covered in mud. A packet filled with leaves was also inside the house. Her daughter went throughout the house calling for her mother. She eventually found her lying on the bathroom floor with a white punjabi scarf tied around her neck. She was dead.”

The sources said they suspected that the gardener was linked to Munsamy’s killing because he was the last person seen leaving the home.

Lieutenant Colonel Nqobile Gwala, a provincial police spokesperson, said police were investigating two cases of murder.