Woman, 79, left to die on garage floor

Well-known and ded­i­cated ed­u­ca­tion­al­ist tried to fight off at­tack­ers


THERE are more ques­tions than an­swers sur­round­ing the death of a New­lands West ex-prin­ci­pal whose body was found three days af­ter her sus­pected time of death.

Shirley James, 79, for­mer prin­ci­pal of Col­legevale Pri­mary School in Over­port, was found ly­ing in the garage of her Mall­cas­tle Place home on Mon­day by of­fi­cers from a pri­vate se­cu­rity com­pany.

She was ly­ing on her back with a piece of cloth wrapped around her face.

Her cloth­ing was di­shev­elled. Ac­cord­ing to a po­lice source, who asked not to be named, there was blood on her arm, pos­si­bly from a stab wound. It also ap­peared James tried to fight off her at­tacker or at­tack­ers.

Cap­tain Nqo­bile Gwala, of KZN SAPS, con­firmed that a case of murder and rob­bery was be­ing in­ves­ti­gated by New­lands East SAPS. She said the body was found at around 3pm.

“It is al­leged a body of a 79-year-old woman was found ly­ing in her garage with as­sault wounds to the head. The victim was stay­ing alone in her house. The mat­ter is still un­der in­ves­ti­ga­tion.”

Po­lice be­lieve she could have died any time be­tween Thurs­day and Satur­day as her body showed signs of de­com­po­si­tion. Neigh­bours claimed there had been no ac­tiv­ity in the yard for three days. Fur­ther­more, news­pa­pers had not been col­lected or read for a few days.

“The post-mortem will de­ter­mine the cause of death and the pos­si­ble date of death,” added Gwala.

The alarm was ap­par­ently raised on Mon­day when a fam­ily mem­ber called the se­cu­rity com­pany be­cause they were un­able to con­tact James.

She had not an­swered her phone and had missed a church ser­vice. James was a reg­u­lar at the St Ai­dan’s Angli­can Church in Berea.

Neigh­bours said while there was no sign of a forced en­try, it ap­peared as though some­one had gone through cup­boards in the house.

“It is in­deed a strange case. We don’t know who could have wanted to hurt such an old lady,” said one neigh­bour.

The POST was at the scene shortly af­ter the body was dis­cov­ered.

Pun­dit Satish Ma­haraj, a po­lice chap­lain, was called to the scene to of­fer coun­selling. Neigh­bours spoke of the quiet life James lived.

“She was a pri­vate woman but very friendly. Her hus­band died about three years ago due to an ill­ness, so she lived alone. I would of­ten see her driv­ing past, and she would al­ways greet me.”

An­other neigh­bour said she loved to travel and had been plan­ning a tour of South Africa.

“My wife and her were friends. James had told her that she planned to pay a de­posit for the tour last week. My wife tried call­ing her to find out about it but failed to get a hold of her. The two of them had just re­turned from a trip to the Wild Coast about three weeks ago.”

Well-known au­thor and researcher, Betty Govin­den, who was also friends with James, said it was “shock­ing” to hear about her death.

She de­scribed James as a ded­i­cated ed­u­ca­tion­al­ist.

“She hailed from the Ephraim fam­ily, who were pioneers in ed­u­ca­tion and in the Angli­can Church. Her fa­ther worked with Gandhi. I knew her for many years, and ad­mired her in­de­pen­dent spirit.

“She was a great in­spi­ra­tion to women, and to young peo­ple. She was widely trav­elled and was ever on a learn­ing curve, ex­plor­ing the world in its in­fi­nite va­ri­ety. We will miss her,” said Govin­den.

The in­ci­dent comes shortly af­ter New­lands West res­i­dent, Saber Ahmed Jazb­hay, wrote an open let­ter to the new KZN po­lice com­mis­sioner, Lieu­tenant-Gen­eral Khom­binkosi Elvis Jula, call­ing for po­lice in­ter­ven­tion in the area.

In his let­ter, Jazb­hay, a lawyer by profession, said New­lands West was sub­jected to high in­ci­dents of vi­o­lent at­tacks, house rob­beries and hi­jack­ing.

“Re­cently on Steel­cas­tle Av­enue, a se­nior at­tor­ney suf­fered trau­matic as­sault and rob­bery at his home. Be­fore that his son was shot and crit­i­cally in­jured in a hi­jack at­tempt out­side his house. On the eve of Women’s Day, there was a break-in next door. A short while ago a blue VW Jetta was hi­jacked in the area. We need ur­gent vis­i­ble polic­ing and ac­tion to avoid cit­i­zens turn­ing vig­i­lantes and tak­ing the law into their own hands. Please pro­tect us or we have to do what­ever it takes to pro­tect our­selves.”

He added James’s murder was in­dica­tive of “crim­i­nals show­ing the state the mid­dle fin­ger”.

“It is un­ac­cept­able but is un­avoid­able be­cause the state is do­ing noth­ing to curb crime or pro­vide proper se­cu­rity to it res­i­dents.”

Bon­gani Mbatha African News Agency (ANA)

THE house where James’s body was found.


THE body of New­lands West ex-prin­ci­pal, Shirley James, was found at her home on Mon­day. |

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