Sunday Tribune

Don’t go, sister begged man who met lover on dating website

- VIVIAN ATTWOOD

THE 75-year-old man, who was allegedly killed by his gay lover in a Durban motel this week, was twice lured on-line by the same man in different guises – and the second time it proved fatal.

Having met Mario Tsawe, 29, several months ago on gay dating website Gaydar, Dennis Roberts looked for new friends on a second gay website, Silver Daddies, after the relationsh­ip with Tsawe soured, and connected with a man calling himself Ernest, which Roberts’s family believe was an alias used by Tsawe to re-establish contact.

On the eve of his murder, Crystal Roberts, 72, begged her brother Dennis not to meet the young lover he had found on-line. “Please don’t go. You’re going to get yourself killed,” she warned.

But he ignored his sister’s pleas and left the Durban North home they shared, allegedly to rendezvous with Tsawe.

Less than 24 hours later, Roberts was killed and his sister killed too, presumably because he left his cellphone with her for safekeepin­g and which, it is alleged, contained incriminat­ing SMS exchanges.

Tsawe, of the Eastern Cape, has been charged with the murders and will appear in the Durban High Court on Friday.

Yesterday the victims’ close-knit family appealed to the Tribune to warn heterosexu­als and homosexual­s to avoid internet dating.

Crystal’s son, Rick Gerrard, said Roberts met Tsawe on Gaydar and although the relationsh­ip quickly soured, his uncle continued to assist the unemployed man financiall­y.

Jenni Gerrard, one of Crystal’s three daughters, said: “On Sunday morning my mom franticall­y tried to stop Dennis meeting up with Mario, but failed. Dennis was such a kind man, though, and he had fallen hard for Mario. He never believed he could hurt him.”

Jenni said her mother had strong reservatio­ns about dating websites, and had warned Dennis how vulnerable he was as a gay man in the wake of news reports about a series of homosexual murders in Gauteng.

Rick Garrard, who also lived in the Glen Hills house, said: “Dennis was not ashamed of his discovery, late in life, that he was attracted to his own sex, and neither was his family, but we wanted him to be safe.

“He was just incapable of seeing the bad in anyone. Because he spent most of his life in the UK, and only returned permanentl­y to Durban 18 months ago, he had no understand­ing of the criminal mindset in South Africa.”

Rick Gerrard said homosexual­ity was “just a small part of my uncle’s life”. Dennis was married for more than 25 years, separating from his wife, Margaret, in 1999. The couple have three children and six grandchild­ren, who were all devoted to him.

Sam Roberts, who attended Friday’s memorial service at The Rock church in Umhlanga on behalf of his mother and sisters, Elizabeth and Rebecca, who live in the UK, said: “My dad was an enormously understand­ing, supportive and compassion­ate man. He never pressurise­d his children to achieve his dreams; he wanted above all for us to be happy. We wanted the same thing for him.”

According to Rick Gerrard, Dennis was open about his gay relationsh­ip, but Crystal felt her brother was being exploited.

Jenni Gerrard said: “Mario lost his job just after they got together, and moved into my mom and uncle’s home for three weeks.”

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