By Barbara Hollands
AN Eastern Cape town has become the unlikely venue for a bizarre court case in which a former United States soldier, who allegedly faked his own death, and his wife are facing charges of murder and fraud.
Retired US military man Karl Rashid, 50, who is thought to be an Iraq war veteran, has been dubbed “the Jesus of Sterkspruit” because everyone assumed he went up in flames in his blazing Volvo last year.
Rashid’s burnt-out car containing the charred remains of a body was discovered on a dusty road near Sterkspruit in September, but he and his wife Antoinette, 38, were later arrested after Rashid was found to be alive and well, and holed up in a Free State flat.
Rashid and Antoinette, a former South African Air Force member whom he met at a military course in the US, were arrested on December 5 last year after he was discovered living in Bloemfontein while she was making claims against various life insurance policies taken out in his name. Some of the claims were paid out.
According to Eastern Cape National Prosecuting Authority spokesman Luxolo Tyali, Rashid’s incinerated sedan was found on September 3 last year. In the driver’s seat were the remains of a human body burnt beyond recognition. with Rashid’s watch strapped to its wrist.
“His wife had the body cremated and lodged claims against his estate,” said Tyali. “But there is evidence she knew he was alive and that the motivation for the crime was financial problems” – this despite claims from residents that the couple appeared “well off”.
Tyali said the Rashids’ alleged scam was exposed when he was discovered in the Bloemfontein flat which had been rented in his wife’s name. “She was paying the rent and there is evidence she was visiting her husband there,” said Tyali.
The couple was arrested and initially appeared at the Sterkspruit Magistrate’s Court in December. While his wife made bail, Rashid has been in custody ever since their arrest.
The trial has been postponed until August 3 for further investigation.
Meanwhile baffled police investigators are still trying to discover the identity of the dead man in the vehicle.
Tyali said police had reason to believe the man had been murdered, but would not elaborate on the cause of death. He could also not confirm rumours in the town that Rashid was an Iraq war veteran.
An auto shop staffer, who declined to be named, said the story of the US soldier who allegedly faked his own death was a “talking point” in the town.
“We all thought he was dead and then they found him in Bloemfontein! It’s not like he needed the money – he seemed well off. As a retired soldier he would’ve had money.”
This is a shortened version of an article that first appeared in the print edition of Weekend Post on Saturday March 10, 2012.