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How a rape case was crucial in linking murderer to cycling champ’s death

Mafika Nkosi convicted of murder 15 years after the gruesome crime

15 June 2022 - 13:56
A Mpumalanga man was finally convicted for a cycling champion's murder. Stock photo.
A Mpumalanga man was finally convicted for a cycling champion's murder. Stock photo.
Image: Allan Swart/123RF

For more than a decade the family of slain cycling champion Etienne van Wyk waited, hoping for justice to be served while his killer apparently forged a new life in a town about two hours away from the crime scene in Mpumalanga.

Van Wyk, 29, was bludgeoned to death at his home in Steiltes, Mbombela, on January 30 2007 by Mafika Ronnie Nkosi during a botched house robbery. The businessman’s bloodied and battered body was found the next morning by his domestic worker and gardener.

Fingerprints were found at the scene but there was no match when a search was conducted.

After the initial investigation turned cold, the case was handed over to the Hawks’ Mpumalanga serious organised crime investigations unit. More than 13 years later, Nkosi was arrested in Elukwatini, where he worked as a forklift driver at a hardware store.

Investigating officer Lt-Col Erhard Ströh explained the events that played out after the murder.

“[Initially], the local criminal record centre attended to the scene and established forensic evidence linking the suspect to the crime scene. At the time of the incident no suspect was identified, and no suspect was arrested,” he told TimesLIVE. 

Ströh said the murder may have become a “cold case” due to a lack of information at that  time. However, the Hawks got a break in 2011 when Nkosi was arrested in connection with a rape case dating back to 2004. He had previously escaped from custody at the Waterval Boven police station after his initial arrest on the rape charge. 

He was later acquitted on the rape charge but his arrest would prove to be crucial in linking him to the murder of Van Wyk through his fingerprints.

It would be nine years before the net finally closed in on Nkosi, with the Hawks arresting him at work in October 2020, almost two hours away from the murder scene. According to Ströh, Nkosi did not resist arrest. 

Mpumalanga Hawks spokesperson Lt-Col Philani Nkwalase said the delay in linking Nkosi was due to several factors, including the lengthy process involved in tracing fingerprints not on the police system. This meant police had to extend the search to other databases, such as home affairs, which can take time.

Nkosi, now aged 44, was convicted on housebreaking and murder charges by the Nelspruit regional court on Monday.

He was handed a 25-year prison term for murder and an additional five years for housebreaking.

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