When work took him to South Africa, Australian banker James Starkey lived in an opulent apartment complex in Johannesburg that promised “tight, highly effective, and extremely efficient security controls”.
But on October 8, a concerned colleague could not make contact with Mr Starkey. The colleague went to the Raphael Penthouse Suites himself and asked staff to let him into Mr Starkey’s room.
Australian banker killed in South Africa
James Starkey, 36, was found dead with brutal injuries and burn marks in his hotel in Johannesburg, but police say they have no suspects.
He was dead.
A paramedic told another financial services worker the body showed signs of brutal injuries, including burns and strangulation.
Three weeks later, the circumstances of Mr Starkey’s death remain a mystery.
“The motive has not yet been established,” South African Police Service spokesman Lungelo Dlamini said.
Colonel Dlamini confirmed the case was being treated as a murder but said police had no suspects.
He would not elaborate on the body’s injuries except to say there was no sign of sexual assault.
“Words cannot describe how devastated we are,” Mr Starkey’s family said in a statement released on Monday.
“James lived life to the full and certainly had everything to live for, having recently become engaged and planning to return to settle in Australia in the near future.”
Mr Starkey graduated from Sydney’s Macquarie University in 2003 and worked for financial services firms in Australia and then London, including Macquarie Bank, Ernst and Young, JP Morgan and Goldman Sachs.
The family said Mr Starkey had been nearing the end of his three-month placement in South Africa working for the London-based banking consultancy Catalyst.
“We are extremely shocked this occurred as the apartment, organised by Catalyst, was a high security residence in the centre of the tourist district,” they said.
A spokeswoman for Catalyst said: “We are deeply distressed and offer our most profound condolences to his family.”
The Raphael Penthouse apartments are next to Nelson Mandela Square, one of Johannesburg’s best-known tourist hot spots.
The apartment complex is accessed through several sets of security card-protected doors and its reception staff are accompanied by 24-hour security guards.
Mandy Sibudi, rooms manager for the apartment building’s owner Legacy Hotels, said her staff’s only contact with Mr Starkey was to give him his key when he first arrived.
“He was found by a colleague who was also from overseas but working here,” she said.
“He came to us very upset and said we must call the police. The police told us it was a domestic matter and to leave it with them.”
Another of the company’s hotels, the Michaelangelo, was the scene of the murder of former Rwandan spy chief-turned-dissident Col Patrick Karegeya on New Year’s Eve in 2014.
Mr Karegeya was found strangled with a curtain tie-back.
On average, 51 people were murdered each day in South Africa in 2015-2016, the fact-checking organisation Africa Check says.
The country’s murder rate has risen each year for the past four.
Mr Starkey, a dual-national, entered South Africa on his British passport.
Britain does not have jurisdiction to investigate the death but a Foreign and Commonwealth Office spokesperson said, “We remain in contact with local authorities.”
The Australian Department of Foreign Affairs and Trade said Britain was providing consular assistance to Mr Starkey’s family.
The department declined to answer further questions, citing privacy reasons.
After repatriation, Mr Starkey was buried at Macquarie Park cemetery on October 21.