Man pleads guilty to Irish aid worker John Curran’s murder, blames it on witchcraft



  • Mitspa Onyoka has been sentenced to an effective 18 years for the murder of Irish aid worker John Curran.
  • Curran was murdered in his Cape Town City Bowl apartment three years ago.
  • Onyoka said he had attacked Curran after he made sexual advances toward him.

The man who stabbed and then beat an Irish aid worker with a frying pan in his Cape Town home two years ago has pleaded for forgiveness, saying that while “white people don’t believe in witchcraft… everything I did that time, it was not me”.

On Tuesday, Mitspa Onyoka was sentenced to an effective 18 years’ imprisonment in the Western Cape High Court for the murder of John Curran, who was killed in his City Bowl apartment three years ago.

“I know that saying sorry for something that happened cannot fix it – it was something big that I did,” he told a family representative present during proceedings.

“But I know to come before you and ask for your forgiveness, with time it will reduce the pain that you are feeling. It took me almost one year to forgive myself.”

READ | John Curran murder: Accused faces 18-year sentence for killing Irish aid worker in plea deal – report

The Congolese national was also convicted of stealing Curran’s cellphone from his home and fraudulently claiming it belonged to him when he sold it at Cash Crusaders two days later.

Onyoka, who was also found guilty of being in South Africa illegally, admitted to his crimes by answering “guilty” in French as the charges were read out to him.

Multiple sharp force injuries

According to his admissions, he had gone to the Irish charity worker’s flat at the Cape Town Lodge on 6 November 2018. They had become acquainted a few weeks earlier, and Curran had invited him over that day.

They had had a drink and Curran had made sexual advances toward him, which he rejected, Onyoka said in his statement. He said the 63-year-old had continued to try and convince him to change his mind.

He said he had gone to the toilet and when he turned around, Curran had entered. Onyoka said he had become “annoyed” as he hadn’t wanted to stop his advances.

Onyoka had pushed him before grabbing a knife in the kitchen and stabbing him. He then took a frying pan and hit him over the head. Curran lay motionless when Onyoka took a new cellphone – a Samsung S9 – from a table, which he later sold for R5 100.

The charity worker’s body was discovered the following day by his domestic worker. He was found to have died of multiple sharp force injuries.

Onyoka was arrested just more than two weeks later and was discovered to have been in the country illegally since 2017.

Curran had worked as a director of education for Mellon Educate in South Africa and was preparing to return home after his tenure had ended.

Onyoka, who worked as a cleaner at a Cape Town night club and had no previous convictions, had entered into a plea and sentencing agreement with the State.

Among the aggravating factors mentioned was that Curran’s family in Ireland had been left traumatised by his violent death and that this was exacerbated when they could not attend proceedings owing to the Covid-19 pandemic.

Judge Selwyn Hockey sentenced Onyoka to 18 years for Curran’s murder, three years for theft, three years for fraud and one year for being in the country illegally.

He would serve an effective 18 years as the latter three charges would run concurrently with the first.

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