Dad tells of frantic search for daughter

Lee-Anne Butler

THE father of a Nelson Mandela Metropolitan University student who was found strangled in her room told the Port Elizabeth High Court yesterday of her family's desperate attempts to locate her for a week – not knowing she was already dead.

Freddie Sithole, of Soshanguve in Pretoria, said he last spoke to his daughter, Tshepiso, 18, on June 16 2011 when she called to ask what he would like as a gift for Father's Day.

Tshepiso, who was a first year civil engineering student, was found dead in the room of her Summerstrand student residence on Sunday June 26.

Her alleged lover and former teacher, Mutshutshu Muvhango, 31, is accused of murdering her in a jealous rage and stealing her cellphone. Muvhango, a married father of two, was visiting Tshepiso in Port Elizabeth at the time of her death.

Sithole said he had become suspicious after Tshepiso did not send him a Father's Day message on Sunday June 19. He said he became concerned when he received no response from her after sending repeated text messages and trying to call her.

He then started calling the owner of the student residence where she was staying but also received no answers as to her whereabouts.

He tracked down one of the students who lived at the same residence. "She told me that she had seen my daughter in her room with her boyfriend," he said.

Sithole said he had no knowledge of Tshepiso having a boyfriend. He said he asked the student for the boyfriend's number and attempted calling but the phone was also off.

Eventually, on June 26, the owner of the student residence found Tshepiso's body in her room and Sithole was informed that his daughter was dead. He said Port Elizabeth police arrived in Pretoria after the funeral to find Muvhango who had been identified as Tshepiso's boyfriend. Muvhango was eventually arrested on September 20.

Defence counsel Advocate Jodene Coertzen put it to Sithole that his daughter and Muvhango had been in a relationship from the end of 2010 until the time of her death.

Sithole said he was not aware of the relationship but believed it was true because his daughter's school marks had declined during that time, leading him to believe that she was distracted.

He said Muvhango's wife had also visited his home in December 2010 because of rumours that Tshepiso was involved with her husband.

The trial continues today.