SWIFT action by police following a crucial tip-off from members of the public led to the arrest of seven men in connection with the brutal slaying of a young couple in Marine Drive at the weekend.
Dramatic details emerged yesterday of how police put together an intricate and highly successful sting operation only hours after the bodies of Owen Domingo, 31, and Sarah-Jane Oliphant, 22, were discovered on Saturday morning.
Within 40 hours, seven men were in custody. Andrico Williams, 21, Junaid van Vaught, 27, Benito Draghoender, 31, Justin Najoe, 22, Shannon Mopp, 24, Marquin Jurgens, 30, and Altaaf Swarts, 21, all from the Bethelsdorp and Cleary Park area, appeared in the Port Elizabeth Magistrate‘s Court yesterday on charges of murder, abduction, hijacking and robbery.
They were remanded until their next hearing on Friday.
Detectives likened the murder to a “scene from a movie” and labelled the brutal attack a “robbery that turned nasty”.
Oliphant, from Bethelsdorp, and Domingo, from Palmridge, were both shot in the head and left in the bushes along Marine Drive early on Saturday. Their bodies were found 8.7km apart by passing cyclists shortly after 5.30am.
Domingo‘s body was found first behind the Nelson Mandela Metropolitan University and Oliphant‘s body was discovered near Three Pools, covered with a blue blanket.
Police spokesman Warrant Office Alwin Labans said it appeared the couple had been sitting in Domingo‘s VW Polo outside the Chatty Community Centre.
Oliphant had just finished work at La Dee-Da‘s nightclub in Salsoneville and was going to be dropped off at home by Domingo, a foreman at Aberdare Cables.
“They were hijacked by four men in the car park and shoved into Domingo‘s car boot,” Labans said.
“The men held Domingo at gunpoint and stole his shoes before demanding his bank card and pin number. The robbers then drove them to the Boardwalk, where they parked the vehicle with the two in the boot and drew about R900 from his bank account.”
After the withdrawal, the robbers drove along Marine Drive. They stopped on a gravel road in a secluded, bushy area behind the university, told Domingo to get out of the boot and shot him in the head at point-blank range. “They then drove towards Three Pools with Oliphant in the boot before shooting her in the head and dumping her body.”
Shortly after the bodies were discovered, police appointed a task team to investigate. A few hours later, they received a phone call from concerned northern areas residents who knew Domingo and recognised his car, which had been spotted in Arcadia with four men inside. Suspicious that the car may have been stolen – but completely unaware Domingo had been hijacked – the residents contacted the police as a precautionary measure.
The task team immediately connected the car with the murders. The police quickly alerted informants to be on the lookout for the car. “Within hours, the team got word the robbers were selling parts of the vehicle and the detectives set up a deal where they would buy his sound system,” Labans said.
“They arranged a meeting in Bethelsdorp where four of the men arrived in a VW Golf and were arrested. Domingo‘s sound system was also found in the vehicle.”
On further investigation, detectives found Domingo‘s car hidden in the backyard of another house in Bethelsdorp. “Police then managed to track down another man who had allegedly sold the mag wheels from the car,” he said. “The final suspect was arrested late on Sunday night after it was determined he had stolen his father‘s handgun and lent it to his friends to commit a robbery.”
Oliphant had not been raped and it was thought the motive for the abduction and murder had been robbery.
“We do not know yet why they killed them instead of letting them go.”
Sarah-Jane‘s father, Ernest, said he was still too traumatised to comment.
“The last time I saw her was when she left for work. My wife has been sleeping. She had to be taken to hospital to be treated for shock.” – Additional reporting by Hendrick Mphande
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