'It could have been me': A chilling encounter with the 'post office killer'

05 September 2019 - 19:48
By Nonkululeko Njilo
The  Clareinch post office in Cape Town.
Image: Dan Meyer The Clareinch post office in Cape Town.

Just days before UCT student Uyinene Mrwetyana was raped and brutally murdered inside a post office her alleged killer tried to convince a female customer to come back "later" to make a payment.

The sequence of events was chillingly similar to the modus operandi allegedly used to lure 19-year-old Mrwetyana back to the Clareinch post office after she had inquired about collecting a parcel.

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Capetonian Alice Cropper shared an account this week of her encounter with the man – whom she realised afterwards was the alleged killer after seeing his name printed on her till slip – in a post on Facebook.

Cropper said she visited the post office and was told by the man that the bank card machine was offline and he asked her to return later. "As I started organising my post, he told me that the card machine is offline, but I should come back in a bit and it will probably be back on and he will help me. This was at 4.30pm and the post office was closing in half an hour," she wrote.

"I asked him to please just try, just in case, maybe it has come back on while we have been talking. He tried my card and it worked with no problem whatsoever," she said.

But minutes later he mentioned forgetting to charge for an envelope and asked her to make a second payment. She tried the machine a second time and it worked.

She later heard about what had happened to Mrwetyana.

"On Monday, the news broke about what had happened to Uyinene at this same post office, how a male worker had told her the power was out, to come back in a bit, how she had done so to find him now alone, where he locked her in, raped and murdered her, smashing her over the head with a set of scales, how she had fought him back,” she wrote.

"So maybe the card machine had been offline and it was a coincidence it suddenly worked [twice] when I tried, I don't know.

"But also maybe I could have done my errands and returned as advised, just before closing, and then maybe it would have been me locked in alone with him, pleading and screaming and fighting for life while nobody came. Who knows," she added.

In an effort to help police working on Uyinene's case she visited the police station near to the post office on the day she heard of her death but was told the detectives had knocked off and no one could help.

She returned on Tuesday to no avail. On her third visit, on Wednesday, a statement was taken. "Eventually I was taken to a cramped room with three women, the only ones who seemed to understand why it might be worth taking a statement and, finally, I gave my statement to the only person to care about taking it, to be used or discarded as the police see fit,” she wrote.

Cropper said she hoped justice would prevail for Mrwetyana. "Despite my feelings of despair and a renewed lack of confidence in the government and police to protect us, I really do hope that justice is brought for Uyinene. I hope that that awful, predatory monster gets the fate he deserves and rots in the South African prison system for the rest of his days," she wrote.

Police spokesperson Lt-Col Andre Traut said the management of Claremont police station had noted Cropper's social media post.

"[She] was interviewed by the station commander during her visit to the station and a statement was obtained from her," Traut said."

On the basis of her social media post, an internal investigation has been launched on a provincial level into the circumstances of the matter."

• A court ordered earlier that the identity of the suspect not be revealed as he had to attend an identity parade.