The person of interest wanted in connection with the murder of Jesse Hess and her grandfather has been arrested for the rape of a Cape Town teenager.
Police spokesperson Captain FC Van Wyk confirmed on Wednesday that a 31-year-old man had been arrested in Struisbaai after a tip-off was received from locals.
The man had been connected to the Hess case by circumstantial evidence, police confirmed, and had been linked to a robbery which took place on Monday in Hanover Park, where a 16-year-old girl was raped.
Hess’s aunt, Sandy, told News24 that the man who had been apprehended was related to her.
After learning of his arrest, she said: “He’s caught. Glory to God!”
“I’m beyond shattered,” she said. “I feel like I’m watching a movie. It can’t be real.”
He had been on the run until he was caught on Wednesday.
The man will appear in the Athlone Magistrate’s Court on Friday.
Police would only confirm that a person of interest had been identified in connection with the double murder of Hess and her grandfather Chris.
Hess and her grandfather were found dead in the family’s Parow flat in Cape Town on August 30.
Sandy saw the dead bodies of the 19-year-old first-year University of the Western Cape theology student and her father, Chris, 85, on the day they were murdered.
It was her second day at her new job, she recalled. She had asked a neighbour to check if Jesse and Chris were home as she couldn’t reach them by phone.
The resident had seen Chris through the bathroom window. Sandy said she thought he might have fainted and asked the tenants to kick the door down and see where Jesse was.
The teenager was found on the floor, behind the door.
It took three hours for police to arrive, Sandy said. She waited outside the flat door as people started flocking to their home, as word spread.
When the police eventually arrived, she went inside with them and asked if her father and Jesse were simply unconscious.
“The picture is burned in my mind,” Sandy said.
“I was hopeful. [Jesse] looked like she was sleeping.”
Police, however, confirmed to her that they were dead.
It is believed that Chris and his granddaughter had been strangled.
Sandy had suspected there was more to the murders than a robbery gone wrong.
Only a TV set, two cellphones and Jesse’s backpack were stolen from the house.
Their assailant being known to them is probably the reason why no sign of forced entry was found, Sandy believes.
She had had the difficult task of telling her mother Cathy that her husband and granddaughter, who dreamt of one day becoming a pastor, had been murdered.
Jesse’s mom, who worked as a hairdresser on a cruise ship, had wept so much that Sandy eventually told her she would call her back when she was calmer.
Sandy, however, hasn’t cried since she found them that day.
“[I will mourn] when he’s caught and sentenced.”
Hours before her murder, Jesse had won R5,000 in a competition on Heart 104.9FM and had been planning to do something special for her grandparents and aunt who had taken her and her brother in, as her mother worked overseas.
The station had since doubled the prize money.
October 25 would have been Jesse’s 19th birthday. Sandy, her son, Ouma Cathy, and Jesse’s brother celebrated the teenager’s life with a dinner and chocolate cake.
Friends and family had visited her gravesite that weekend to spruce it up and lay fresh flowers.