Tuesday 20 November 2018

'An exceptional leader' - Police probe if Irish charity worker was stabbed to death for his phone

Father of four with 'infectious smile' was due to return from South Africa this week

John Curran had held a senior position for the Mellon Educate charity in Cape Town
John Curran had held a senior position for the Mellon Educate charity in Cape Town

Robin Schiller and David Fleming

A charity worker was stabbed to death in a robbery at his South African apartment where only his phone was taken.

Retired school principal John Curran was discovered with multiple stab wounds at around 10.30am on Wednesday in the Cape Town property where he had been staying for the past two months.

John Curran
John Curran

Mr Curran (60) previously lived in Churchtown, south Dublin, where he worked as a principal, before moving to South Africa to work with the Mellon Educate charity.

President of the Irish Primary Principals Network David Ruddy described him as a highly esteemed colleague and friend. He said he was a "visionary" and an "exceptional leader" with an "infectious smile".

Investigators confirmed that they are treating his death as a murder and no arrests have yet been made.

A phone belonging to Mr Curran is missing and detectives are now probing if the dedicated charity worker was murdered during a robbery at the property where he was staying.

John Curran had just finished his two years with the charity
John Curran had just finished his two years with the charity

CCTV footage of the apartment complex, on Buitengracht Street, Cape Town, has been reviewed by police officers. A source said the footage recorded a person concealing their face leaving the apartment in the early hours of Wednesday morning.

A post-mortem will be carried out on Mr Curran either today, or at the latest on Monday, to determine the cause of death. At this stage, police officers believe that he suffered multiple stab wounds to his body.

His remains were discovered when a friend visited his apartment yesterday, and police were notified at around 10.30am. A spokesperson for the Cape Town police said that a senior investigator had been assigned to lead the murder inquiry.

Captain Ezra October told the Irish Independent: "We can confirm that police arrived at the apartment block and found a body with stab wounds.

"We have assigned a senior detective to the case and carried out a forensic investigation of the apartment and sampling. This is definitely being investigated as a case of murder."

A detailed forensic examination of the scene was carried out by police officers, and at this stage detectives believe that only Mr Curran's mobile phone is missing.

However, further inquiries will be carried out to determine if any other items were taken or are missing from the victim's home.

His body was formally identified by a colleague yesterday, and his family were notified.

It is believed that he was staying in the Cape Town apartment while on a vacation, having completed his contract with the charity.

The Mellon Educate non-profit, with whom Mr Curran worked for two years, paid tribute to the "much-loved" Dublin man.

"With great sadness we learned that our dear colleague and friend John Curran was killed during a robbery in his apartment.

"John only recently completed a two-year contract as director of education for Mellon Educate in South Africa and was staying on vacation in Cape Town for a number of weeks," a statement read.

It's understood he was due to fly home to Ireland this week.

The charity's chief executive Niall Mellon said Mr Curran had helped thousands of children in South Africa.

"I know our many volunteers and supporters will be very sad to hear this tragic news. John was much loved by everyone who met him and especially by the thousands of children he helped during his time with Mellon Educate.

"We are assisting his family in every way we can and your warm wishes of empathy are sincerely appreciated," he said.

Before moving to South Africa, he previously worked as a principal at Good Shepherd National School in Churchtown, Dublin.

Last night, the school posted a statement to pay tribute to "an innovative educator".

"John's vision and enthusiasm still influence our ethos and can be seen at work throughout our school today," it said. A book of condolences has been opened at the school.

He was heavily involved with the Irish Primary Principals Network (IPPN), which described him as a highly esteemed colleague and friend.

Speaking on 'RTÉ News', IPPN president David Ruddy said Mr Curran was an "exceptional leader" who was "very much loved".

Mr Ruddy said Mr Curran found his work in South Africa "very rewarding and equally very challenging".

He then recited a famous quote by former South African leader Nelson Mandela - "education is the most powerful weapon we can use to change the world" - and said that Mr Curran "lived and embodied every piece of that statement".

The Department of Foreign Affairs said it is aware of the situation and "is providing consular assistance".

Mr Curran was predeceased by his son Eoin, who died in a tragic sailing accident in New York in 2010. He is survived by his wife Liz, their children Darragh, Triona and Donal, six grand-children and his two sisters.

Irish Independent

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