A suspect has been arrested in the murder of Newlands West resident and former Collegevale Primary School principal, Shirley James, 79, who was found slain at her Mallcastle Place home, last Monday.

Police spokesperson, Captain Nqobile Gwala, said, “A 30-year-old suspect was arrested on Saturday, 17 August 2019 at Sea Cow Lake.”

The suspect appeared in the Ntuzuma Magistrate’s Court facing a charge of murder. According to media reports, the arrested suspect, identified as France Mbulawa Mdluli, is alleged to have been James’s gardener and had been living in a shack in the Sea Cow Lake area when detectives swooped on him. Police recovered jewellery and other items taken from the house.

According to Gwala, James’s body was discovered on 12 August at around 3pm in her garage with assault wounds to her head. “The victim lived alone in her house. The date of her death is still to be determined as the deceased’s body showed signs of decomposition. A post-mortem will be conducted to determine the cause of death and the possible date of death,” said Gwala.

It is alleged that James was murdered about three days before her body was actually found. She was found with a piece of cloth wrapped around her face. Reports allege that James’s private security company made the horrific discovery of her body when concern grew after a family member requested a check at her Mallcastle Place residence in Steelcastle, Newlands West on Monday. This came after several failed attempts by family and friends to contact the elderly woman. It is alleged that there was no forced entry but the house appeared to have been ransacked.

Family and friends bid farewell to James on Saturday at her funeral which was held at St Aidan’s Anglican Church in Greyville. The murder accused was remanded in police custody and will appear in court in September for a formal bail application.