Relief as nomad’s family identifies him after suicide

The man whose body was found hanging from a tree in a bush next to the N4 between the Middelburg Toll Plaza and weighbridge on July 24, has been formally identified, thanks to an article which appeared in Middelburg Observer's sister paper, Lowvelder, today.

Family of the deceased in Nelspruit confirmed that the body is that of Mr Ashley William Harris-Webster who was born on 19 April 1971.
The family confirmed that Mr Harris-Webster had resided in Barberton before disappearing without contact three years ago.

Middelburg Observer started digging into the tragic case after a man, whose number was found inside a Bible in a tog-bag found next to Mr Harris-Webster’s body on July 24, told police he gave Mr Harris-Webster a lift from Barberton to Nelspruit three years ago.

The man said the hitchhiker identified himself as Ashley, and that he had a “double-barrel” last name which he could not recall.

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Suicide victim’s next of kin may be in Nelspruit

Meanwhile, local resident Fransie Venter, composed a sketch of the deceased from crime scene photos which was published by both Middelburg Observer and Lowvelder.

Minutes after the sister publication hit the streets this morning, the family of Mr Harris-Webster contacted the Middelburg Observer, who assisted the family to get into contact with investigators.

Minutes later his identity was positively confirmed.

According to family member Peter Steinbrucker, the family last had contact with Mr Harris-Webster when he was still residing and working in Barberton.

He told Middelburg Observer that Mr Harris-Webster always led a nomadic lifestyle, and survived by doing odd-jobs.
When work dried up, Mr Harris-Webster moved on to a new area.

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Investigators hope identikit of suicide victim may lead to identification

Mr Steinbrucker had the grim task of informing Mr Harris-Webster’s aged mother of his passing.

He told Middelburg Observer that the family will now have to decide whether to relocate the body to the Lowveld, or have a proper send-off for Mr Harris-Webster in Middelburg where his life ended.

Mr Steinbrucker, however, expressed a deep appreciation for the fact that Mr Harris-Webster will no longer be buried as an unknown pauper, in an unmarked grave.

He profusely thanked Middelburg Observer and its fellow publication with the breakthrough, he says it provides the family with a semblance of relief, knowing where their loved one is.

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