South African woman charged with murdering British 71-year-old she met online

Peta Thornycroft
·2-min read
A South African woman is accused of killing a British man she met on Facebook - Reuters
A South African woman is accused of killing a British man she met on Facebook - Reuters

A South African woman appeared in court near Johannesburg on Monday on charges of killing a 71-year-old British man she met on Facebook before burning his body. 

Zaheera Boomgaard, a goat farmer, was arrested on October 9 and accused of murdering retired accountant, Jamnadas Harkant Nathvani. Nathvani's charred remains were only identified two weeks ago.

Ms Boomgaard, who comes from Walkerville, a small town about 30 miles south of Johannesburg, and Nathvani allegedly struck up a friendship on Facebook before he arrived in January in South Africa to meet her.

He was last seen in February when he was taking a bus from Johannesburg to Kwa Zulu Natal province.  Even though his Facebook page appeared to be kept open, his family reported to South African police in May that he was missing, and were later in contact with South African Community Crime Watch, SACCW.

 Colonel Brenda Muridili, the investigating officer, said that Ms Boomgaard was linked to “other cases with pending investigations,” including the murder of Lynette Mustapha, one of Ms Boomgaard’s friends who was also burned to death, and whose remains were found in August. 

Police investigations into Mustapha’s murder led them to Nathvani’s burned corpse in a local mortuary.  He was identified via DNA obtained from the UK and dental records from India. 

Police said the post mortem revealed signs that Nathvani suffered blunt and sharp-force trauma.  He had been on a pilgrimage to India before flying to South Africa to meet his new friend. 

SACC’s Michael Venter said that Nathvani, known as Harry, was referred to as a “gentle giant…His heart was especially with children as well as the elderly and he did all he could to assist those in need.” “Once a year, Harry would take a trip from the UK to India to hand out food parcels to less fortunate children and the elderly.” 

Nathvani was laid to rest in South Africa in accordance with Hindu tradition and the ceremony was taped for his family

Police say they have now re-opened investigations into the disappearance eight years ago of John Naisby, 83, a retired, married naval engineer from Cape Town, who also met Ms Boomgaard via Facebook. 

Police say she was then using the surname Wookey. The two of them struck up a romance online and he travelled to Johannesburg to meet her, they said. 

About £100 was withdrawn from his bank account a few days after he disappeared.  Police questioned Ms Boomgaard about Naisby’s disappearance at the time as she was the last person known to have seen him.

She was arrested for illegal possession of ammunition, but those charges were dropped.