Man accused of murdering Irish aid worker John Curran in South Africa claims self-defence
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Man accused of murdering Irish aid worker John Curran in South Africa claims self-defence

THE man accused of murdering Irish charity worker John Curran in South Africa last year has claimed he was acting in self-defence.

Mitspa Onyoka, 25, is accused of stabbing the 60-year-old Dubliner to death at his apartment in Cape Town on November 6, 2018.

The Congolese national is also accused of aggravated robbery as Mr Curran's Samsung Galaxy 9 mobile phone was found to be missing.

Applying for bail at Cape Town Magistrates Court on Tuesday, Mr Onyoka claimed he had acted in self-defence following an attempted sexual assault by the Irishman.

Former school principal and father-of-four Mr Curran had finished working as Director of Education for the NGO charity Mellon Educate in Cape Town shortly before his death.

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Mr Onyoka said he was seeking bail as he did not believe he would survive long enough at Pollsmoor Maximum Security Prison to defend himself at trial next year.

Pollsmoor is widely considered to be one of the most dangerous prisons in the world – murders and gang rapes are a common occurrence in the extremely violent jail with inmates at risk of TB, HIV and Weils Disease.

However, Mr Onyoka was denied bail as he was considered a flight-risk and his next hearing was adjourned until May.

John Curran, 60, was a former principal of Good Shepherd National School in Dún Laoghaire (Image: Facebook)

Brutal killing

Prosecutor John Swart told the court post-mortem results showed Mr Curran suffered 26 separate stab wounds to his chest, neck and head – as well as blunt force trauma to the right side of his skull.

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He was also strangled with such force that both sides of the thyroid bones in his neck were broken and he had grazes and contusions "consistent with a struggle".

Defence barrister Anthony Berinato said his client had befriended Mr Curran at his workplace – the popular Fantasy Lounge in Cape Town, a nightspot popular with gay men – and that the Dublin native had promised to help him get a better job.

In his affidavit, the accused claimed he visited Mr Curran's apartment after he promised to set him up as a car salesman – but felt "woozy" after accepting an alcoholic drink from the aid worker upon his arrival.

He alleged that Mr Curran attempted to rape him in a toilet before he grabbed a nearby knife and defended himself, saying he felt "violated and terrified" but "did not know he was dead".

After the struggle ended, Mr Onyoka said he left the apartment without taking anything, despite the victim's phone being missing.

Mr Curran had worked as Director of Education at NGO Mellon Educate in Cape Town (Image: Facebook)
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Bail rejected

Mr Berinato said his client – who allegedly fled the Democratic Republic of Congo in fear of his life before arriving in South Africa – could offer ZAR5000 (£272/€315) in bail and would report to police three times a week if necessary.

The defence barrister added that the life of the accused at Pollsmoor had become a daily battle for survival.

But the prosecution rejected the claim of self-defence, with Mr Swart telling the court: "Being stabbed 26 times does not suggest self-defence".

Magistrate Vusi Mhlanga denied bail and remanded Mr Onyoka in custody "in the interests of justice" to appear next before him on May 16.

At the time of his killing, Mr Curran had been taking a two-month break in South Africa after completing his charity work there following his retirement in Ireland.

He was found dead in a pool of blood at his high-security apartment complex in Buitengracht Street, Cape Town on November 7 – the day after he was killed.

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Mr Onyoka, who was caught on CCTV leaving the former school principal's apartment on November 6, was arrested less than three weeks later on Voortrekker Road in Cape Town having attempted to escape back to his native Congo.