The lack of progress in the probes of the brutal Echo Foundation old age home murders of John Berrington and Hazel Huggins has prompted the organisation to take matters into its own hands.
The foundation has recruited national private investigations firm Sleuth and is offering R100,000 for information which can lead to the arrest and prosecution of the murder suspects – or R50,000 per case. The stalled cases involve the seemingly senseless murders of the two residents on two separate occasions, which shocked the community.
Berrington was murdered in his sleep on his 85th birthday at his Duncan Fergusson Park cottage in Summerstrand on October 28 this year, while Huggins, also 85, was also murdered in her sleep in her Kruger Gardens cottage in Summerstrand.
Both Berrington and Huggins lived alone and both complexes – Duncan Fergusson Park with 29 cottages, and Kruger Gardens with 135 cottages – have patrol guards and electrified fencing.
According to foundation CEO Ken Keen, if anything had been stolen from either Berrington or Huggins, it was minimal.
“As a foundation we feel we can’t just sit idly while these investigations stall,” said Keen. “Both Echo residents and the bereaved families deserve justice for these senseless acts. For this reason, in the wake of a lack of a breakthrough with either case, the Echo Foundation board is offering R50,000 for information which will lead to the arrest and prosecution of the suspect or suspects in each case – R100,000 in total.”
Sleuth senior forensic investigator Dawie Naude said the results of certain forensic evidence tests were still outstanding.
“There are simply no leads,” said Naude, a former SAPS officer. “We are going to re-examine all the witnesses and follow up on leads – new and old. We are in the preliminary phase of going through the crimes scenes and interviewing any people who were there around the time of the murders.
“We will be using a different methodology approach.”
Reward posters will also be put up around the Bay, he said.
Kaplan Blumberg partner Grant Howard, an Echo Foundation board member, explained the terms of the reward.
“The reward will be paid to the individual person who furnishes information directly to Sleuth Investigative Services which, in the sole and absolute discretion of the Board of Directors of the Echo Foundation and in consultation with Sleuth Investigative Services, leads to the arrest and prosecution of the persons responsible for the death of John Berrington and Hazel Huggins,” he said.
The bereaved families have demanded answers.
“It’s been almost two years since the brutal death of our beloved mother and we seem nowhere closer to justice than on that tragic day in March 2014. The brutality of her murder, which we still find impossible to comprehend, demands that the murderers spend the rest of their lives in prison,” said Huggins’ son-in-law, Sven Lunsche.
“Despite the high profile nature of the case it is most disappointing that that the Port Elizabeth police seems to have made no tangible progress. Or, if there has, our family has not been informed, despite assurances to the contrary. The case has been passed from one detective to another and we’ve had to initiate virtually all contact.
“The criminals who killed our mother have been on the loose for almost two years. Who knows what other crimes they have committed since then? It’s time they are imprisoned for the rest of their lives.”
Berrington’s son, Charles, said the family had to constantly seek updates on the investigation from police detectives.
“There doesn’t seem to be an urgency about this. There are so many unanswered questions,” said Charles. “Nothing appears to have been stolen that we can tell. My dad had upped his security in the weeks before his murder, so this seems to have been a well-executed murder.”
Anyone with information on the murders of John Berrington or Hazel Huggins can contact Sleuth Investigative Services senior forensic investigator Dawie Naude via e-mail at firstname.lastname@example.org, or via cellphone on 082 780 1294.
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