The suspect was known as Mitch on Grindr which, according to its website, “is the world’s largest social networking app for gay, bi, trans, and queer people”.
On November 6 last year, the day before his body was discovered, John Curran, 60, gave a security guard in his high-security city apartment block a thumbs up to allow the suspect through a security door on his floor.
At the time, Curran was holidaying in Cape Town after recently finishing a two-year contract as a director of education for Mellon Educate, an Irish-based development charity founded by philanthropist Niall Mellon.
According to a security guard on duty on the day at Manhattan Place in Bree Street, the suspect breezed through reception and stepped into a waiting lift without checking in at the security desk.
In a series of CCTV stills later released by cops, the suspect is seen taking the lift to Curran’s floor at 2.30pm.
The guard says he followed in the next lift. While confronting the suspect, Curran came to the door and motioned to the guard that it was his guest.
Less than an hour later, CCTV captured the suspect leaving in the lift. “He looked cool and calm as if everything was normal,” recalls the guard.
This time the suspect’s face was hidden by the hoodie that he arrived with slung over his arm. He was also carrying a shopping bag allegedly packed with items looted from Curran.
Curran left Cape Town on September 18 but returned from Ireland 10 days later to be with his Ghanaian live-in lover who he met on Grindr last July.
Five weeks later the father of four and grandfather of six was dead.
The lover, who has spoken exclusively to the Weekend Argus, was not home when the suspect arrived.
When the lover returned later that afternoon, he could not gain access to the flat. It’s uncertain whether Curran was still alive. The lover is not a suspect.
He told police that he left the apartment not thinking Curran was in danger as he had been denied access in the past. Usually it was because Curran had a male visitor as he was still playing the field on Grindr, revealed the lover.
Curran’s naked body was found the next morning by a domestic worker.
Her screaming alerted neighbours, with one of them mistaking her for Curran’s girlfriend. On Twitter Dragan Kuruzovic posted: “Guys I woke up this morning at like 9 with a woman outside my room SCREAMING ‘oh my god, my boyfriend is dead’ about 10 times.”
Weekend Argus investigations revealed it was not Curran’s girlfriend.
Curran’s lover arrived at the apartment about 15 minutes after police and was recorded by the neighbour. “Later another guy arrived,” he tweeted, “and began screaming WHYYYYY like outside my door. (I took a voicenote cos that s**t was chilling).”
Less than three weeks later, Manhattan Place CCTV stills released to the media resulted in a tip-off.
On November 23, cops arrested 24-year-old Congolese Mitspa Onyoka who was working at a pub in Goodwood called Fantasy Lounge.
In court it was revealed Onyoka was in South Africa illegally. He is facing murder and robbery charges. His bail application this week was postponed to March 12 and he was remanded to Pollsmoor Prison.
Onyoka has allegedly been linked to the murder by fingerprints found on a bloody knife recovered from the flat, blood spatter on his clothes and Curran’s cellphone which was recovered from a second-hand dealer.
Since its establishment in 2002, Mellon Educate has built houses for 125000 homeless people in South Africa’s poorest townships with 25000 volunteers participating over the years in their now legendary annual seven-day building blitzes.
According to its website, in 2015 “the charity redoubled its commitments to those less fortunate pledging a 10-year education development programme to provide better education to more than 100 000 African children.”
In co-operation with local community school collaboration, Mellon Educate claims it has “already extended educational access and standards of education to 10000 primary school children aged between 4 and 12 in Kenya and South Africa”.
The former Dublin primary school teacher was widely praised by colleagues, including Mellon chief executive Niall Mellon.
“I know our many volunteers and supporters will be very sad to hear this tragic news. John was much loved by everyone who met him and especially by the thousands of children he helped during his time with Mellon Educate.”
The Curran family released a brief statement asking for privacy at a “heartbreaking time”. A family member said: “We loved John dearly and are trying to deal with this tragic loss.”