DURBAN – Police have described the suspect in Siam Lee’s murder, a Hillcrest businessman, as a dangerous sex pest who was obsessed with Siam. This after it emerged that he harassed, assaulted and threatened two other women including his ex-fiance before.
The 29-year-old suspect, Philani Ntuli, is a petrochemical dealer and well-connected businessman who is the director of 10 companies, including a telecoms firm, a logistics business and fuel companies.
Police and private investigators working on the case are now investigating other abduction and harassment incidents allegedly involving Ntuli.
They believe Lee would still be alive had authorities fully investigated previous complaints and criminal charges laid against Ntuli by at least two other woman, including Miss SA Teen 2009, Lucky Mthembu, who was once engaged to the alleged killer.
Mthembu told how she had been abused by Ntuli, a close relative of Health MEC Dr Sibongiseni Dhlomo. She said she had obtained protection orders and laid criminal charges against the man – to no avail, Sunday Tribune reported.
Mthembu said after she broke up with Ntuli, he began stalking her, her family and her friends, vandalising property and making violent threats.
She went public with her concerns after the murder of 22-year-old Karabo Mokoena, who was reported missing in Johannesburg on April 28 last year. Mokoena’s burnt body was found in the veld in Lyndhurst the following day.
Mthembu said at the time she feared this might happen to her if police did not act against him.
Seven months later, on January 4, Ntuli allegedly abducted Lee, killed her and dumped her burnt body on a farm in New Hanover.
A source close to the investigation said Ntuli was allegedly a client where Lee worked and had developed a fixation for her.
When he was arrested, Ntuli allegedly told the investigating team it would never pin the murder on him.
“He told us he had powerful connections and said: ‘I am a biochemist. I know how to clean crime scenes’,” said private investigator Brad Nathanson, who is assisting police with the murder investigation.
Last week, Nathanson and other sources close to the investigation had alleged that Lee’s murder was connected to a ransom demand over a drug debt owed by sex workers at the house where Lee was abducted. Investigations took a completely different turn this week after information came through about a hit-and-run accident that happened on Margaret Maytom Avenue soon after Lee was abducted.
The accident involved a Ford Ranger 4×4 and a black Mercedes-Benz Viano – the same car allegedly used to abduct Lee. The car was seized at Ntuli’s home on Controversy Road in Assagay late on Wednesday afternoon and sent for forensic examination. His home was then put under surveillance. “When he arrived home, we detained him. The investigating officer, Warrant Officer Gordon Pillay, arrived soon afterwards to arrest him,” said Nathanson.
Ntuli has since been kept in custody pending his appearance in court tomorrow when he is expected to face charges of kidnapping, murder and the possession of an unlicensed firearm. He also faces charges for fraud and defeating the ends of justice after allegedly falsifying an insurance claim related to the hit-and-run accident.
Dhlomo said he was shocked by the disclosure that his sister’s grandson had been charged in connection with Lee’s murder. He said he had broken ties with him more than seven months ago after he had tried to resolve his grandnephew’s dispute with Mthembu and her family.
“I intervened and asked him to stop what he was doing. He told me to get off his back and insulted me very badly when I tried to speak to him. “I haven’t had any communication with him since.” Dhlomo said allegations that Ntuli was untouchable because of his political connections, including his link to him, were not true. “The law is the law and will take its course,” said Dhlomo.
Esethu Hasane, spokesperson for Police Minister Mbalula, declined to comment on Mthembu’s appeal to the ministry to fully investigate her complaints of harassment and criminal charges she had laid against Ntuli. “When cases are brought to our attention, we escalate them to the SAPS in that province to deal with. We do not follow the progress closely because it falls into the hands of the investigating officer dealing with the cases. “This case is no different,” said Hasane. SUNDAY TRIBUNE