THE lifeless body of a promising 19-year-old Nelson Mandela Metropolitan University student has been discovered in the bedroom of her Summerstrand commune, a week after she was seen arguing with her boyfriend.
The body of Tshepiso “Promise” Sithole, a first-year civil engineering student from Pretoria, was found lying on her bedroom floor, covered with a blanket with her hands stretched above her head, at about 7pm on Sunday. She had been strangled with a computer cord.
Police are searching for her boyfriend, a teacher at the Pretoria high school Tshepiso attended.
According to her housemates, he had been visiting Tshepiso in Port Elizabeth and the two had an altercation on Sunday, June 19. She was not seen alive again.
The owner of the Gomery Place property, Martin van Niekerk, who lives in an adjoining flatlet, made the gruesome discovery after Tshepiso’s worried father, Freddie, sent him an SMS asking him to look in her room, as he had been unable to get hold of her for the past week. Van Niekerk used his master key to unlock the door of her bedroom, where he found her body.
Humewood police station’s Captain Maryke Pretorius, who was on the scene, said Van Niekerk had been met by a nasty smell when he opened the door.
“We have ruled out the motive of robbery as only her cellphone and the room key are missing, and the door appeared to have been locked from the outside.”
Pretorius said Tshepiso’s boyfriend had been the last person seen with her at the commune.
“At this stage, we are attempting to locate the boyfriend, but cannot comment further until we have spoken to him,” Pretorius said.
The Herald has reliably learnt that Tshepiso’s boyfriend is 31 and a Grade 12 English teacher at her former Pretoria school. Another officer on the scene, who did not want to be named, said it was clear there had been a struggle in the bedroom.
Tshepiso was one of six students who lived in the commune, but most of her housemates had already left Port Elizabeth to return to their hometowns for the university holidays.
Two housemates still at the residence, who identified themselves only as Bianca and Melody, described Tshepiso as a very quiet person who had kept to herself.
“She was like our sister and it is so sad to think that such a young girl could have been senselessly killed like this,” Bianca said. “We are terrified – this is really such an awful thing.”
Melody said Tshepiso’s boyfriend had been seen at the house during the weekend she was murdered. “We don’t know if he slept over here, but we saw him the entire weekend,” she said.
“We do not really know him – we only saw him with her when he came to visit.”
Tshepiso’s devastated father said his family was shocked by the news. He described her as a brilliant and great child.
“This is a big shock to the family. My wife and I have been crying the entire night. We have not been able to sleep after hearing this news,” he said. “She was such a brilliant girl and this whole thing seems like a nightmare.”
Tshepiso was the second eldest of three sisters and, according to Sithole, had a passion for civil engineering.
“She would phone me all the time to talk – we never kept anything from each other,” he said.
“I do not know what happened, but we are leaving soon to drive to Port Elizabeth to find out how this could have happened.”
Sithole said he had become very worried after talking to one of Tshepiso’s friends, who told him she had not turned up for one of her exams.
“I had given her [Tshepiso] money to buy a plane ticket, but heard nothing after that,” he said.
Van Niekerk described Tshepiso as a great tenant who had been very smart and delightful.