Activist principal slain

Date: 13 Jun 2007
And top cop believes shooting could have been an execution Human rights activist and school principal Nick Karvelas, who was shot at close range by gunmen in what was reported to be a robbery, could have been assassinated. This is the view of a high-ranking officer who was at the murder scene. "To me it looks like Karvelas was executed and that the gunmen used the domestic worker to lure him to his house," he said. The officer, who declined to be named, told The Star that Karvelas had been receiving death threats for some time. "I met Karvelas on two occasions, and last week he came to see me and told me: 'I trust you, please keep this documentation safe'." Karvelas had then handed over a file of affidavits relating to an incident outside his school recently, in which he accused police of brutality against two suspects arrested for burglary. The police arrested Karvelas for obstructing justice. Karvelas, in turn, laid an official complaint against the policemen for "unacceptable behaviour" with the Independent Complaints Directorate (ICD) and Community and Safety MEC Firoz Cachalia. But last night police were convinced that the attack was criminal, because the gunmen had broken a small safe out of a wall, which contained Karvelas's firearms, and fled with it. Yesterday, Karvelas, who was the principal of The Sparrows private pre-school and primary school in Randhart, Alberton, and chairperson of the Open City Forum, received a call at the school from his domestic worker of 16 years, Lisbet Mokoena. A distraught Mokoena said she told Karvelas that four men had entered the house in Launceston Street, New Redruth. Mokoena said the men had got in while the gardener was busy in the front of the house. She said the men bound her feet but not her hands. She had her cellphone in the pocket of her dress, which she used to call Karvelas. The gardener was also tied up. A tearful Mokoena said that after she freed herself, she ran outside and saw Karvelas's white 4x4 parked in the driveway. "But I could not see Nicky. I called his name a few times and then saw him lying in the road, covered in blood. "He tried to lift his head and looked as though he wanted to say something to me before he died," said Mokoena. "He was a wonderful and kind man," she added. Police said four gunmen sped away from the crime scene in a red Volkswagen Golf. Construction workers, who drove behind Karvelas as he pulled up at his house, told the police they saw Karvelas get into a scuffle with the gunmen. An eyewitness, who requested to remain anonymous, said Karvelas arrived home about 10.45am. "He shouted to the gunmen: 'What's your problem? What do you want?' And then a shot went off and hit Karvelas in the neck. "He was lying face down and there was so much blood everywhere. I think the bullet hit an artery." Police and paramedics arrived on the scene shortly afterwards. Karvelas's house is surrounded by high walls, with electrified fencing and security cameras. Detectives took the tapes from the security cameras and were sending them to their forensic laboratory to download the footage, which is likely to show them what happened at the house and expose the faces of Karvelas's killers. The crime scene swarmed with police officers. One of them used a metal detector to try to locate spent cartridges from the murder weapon in some bushes near where Karvelas's body lay shrouded by a green blanket. His wife Mandy, who is a teacher at The Sparrows, arrived at the house shortly after the incident. Their sons Alexander (7) and Harristo (13) were given a lift home, to be greeted by the sight of their father's body lying between two police cars. Mokoena walked towards the children, sobbing. Harristo hid his face in Mokoena's embrace, as Alexander grabbed her dress and looked frightened. Provincial Commissioner Perumal Naidoo and other high-ranking officers were also at the crime scene. Mandy Karvelas was crying and told friends and relatives that the police should also be investigated. Shocked neighbours flocked to the scene, but among them were those who had no love lost for Karvelas. Someone remarked that Karvelas "lived by the sword and had died by the sword". By Anna Louw The Star 13/06/07 e2