Murder cold case solved

Norah Coram lived in 2nd Crescent Fish Hoek when she was tied up and left in her bathroom in 1985.

New technology and a fresh eye have helped a Fish Hoek detective solve a 34-year-old cold case.

However, justice could not be served as the suspect died last year.

Fish Hoek police station commander Lieutenant Colonel, Jackie Johnson, said murder cold cases were looked at once a year, and this year, the station had Warrant Officer Detective Jeremy Marten, formerly from the Hawks, on board.

Detective Marten was transferred to the Fish Hoek station four months ago and is in charge of outstanding wanted suspects dating back to 1996, including cases inherited from Ocean View before it had a police station.

Two weeks ago, Detective Marten had a look at Norah Coram’s file, a cold case.

Ms Coram, 80, died in September 1985 after her house in 2nd Crescent, Fish Hoek was ransacked earlier that year in July. She was tied up and locked in the bathroom for 36 hours before being discovered by her neighbour.

Ms Coram was taken to Groote Schuur Hospital and after falling ill with pneumonia, spent a long time in ICU before her death.

However, she managed to give police a statement in which she identified the perpetrator as the young man from Ocean View whom she had often given work to.

But the suspect was able to give the police the slip and was never brought to book. On the day of the attack, he asked Ms Coram for food and money in exchange for garden services.

The man’s name is known to the Echo, but he cannot be named as he could not be arrested and charged for her murder.

An article titled “Police File” appeared in the Fish Hoek Echo on June 26, 1985 asking for anyone with information about the man to contact the police.

Following this, he completely disappeared and police had no further clues as to his whereabouts.

Ms Coram never fully recovered from her pneumonia and died on September 27, 1985. The charge of assault with the intent to do grievous bodily harm became one of murder.

Police continued the search for the suspect looking for new information about the man year after year.

Then two weeks ago, Detective Marten decided to have another look. He read through the statement Ms Coram gave back then and started looking into possible places where the suspect could be. After tracing the suspect’s current address using a computer database the likes of which would not have been available to police in 1985, Detective Marten was ready to arrest the man who had evaded the police for so long.

Only then did he learn that the Ms Coram’s suspected killer had died the previous year – escaping the law one last time.

Ms Coram’s nephew and Sunnydale resident, Andrew Kavanagh, 60, said he was very impressed with Detective Marten’s sleuthing, and although the suspect could not be arrested, it had brought closure for the family.

Mr Kavanagh said Ms Coram had been a loving woman who had enjoyed cricket and would often take her binoculars and hop on a train to Newlands to go watch a game.

She had been involved in the cub scout movement, and he remembered her as an energetic person who had gone to church every Sunday.

Mr Kavanagh said he had visited her every week while she had been in Groote Schuur, but then he had been called away for national service, and she had died during that time.

Lieutenant Colonel Johnson said it was a huge benefit to the station having experienced detectives on board who were connected to other units.

She said since Detective Marten’s arrival he had investigated and finalised more than 100 cases on the wanted-suspects list.

She said she was particularly proud of Detective Marten, Warrant Officer Detective Chris Cloete and Warrant Officer Detective Brinton Stafford who had been responsible for the arrest of the second suspect in the hijacking and murder case of Scarborough surfer David Wolfromm, (“Second suspects arrested for Scarborough man’s hijacking and murder,” Echo, May 22).

She urged elderly Fish Hoek residents to be vigilant and not to open their doors to strangers.