Welcome to Unsolved Murders SA, a podcast series where we will be delving into gruesome homicide investigations that, at the time of producing the episodes, were still open.
The objective of this series is to keep the stories of the forgotten alive and, hopefully, help spark a memory for anyone listening in with intimate knowledge of the cases.
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Some of the content featured in this series describes details of extreme violence. Therefore, viewers’ discretion is strongly advised.
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Unsolved Murders SA: The cases of Mahejeen Banu Patel, Feroz and Yunuz Mayet
Fatima Patel, a 28-year-old mother of three, was brutally hacked to death insider her home in Nirvana, Polokwane, on the afternoon of Friday 15 April 2015.
More than six years have passed, and her murder is still unsolved. Investigators who worked on the murder case turned the docket in to the National Prosecuting Authority that same year, listing her husband, Rameez Patel as the prime suspect.
We have extensively covered details on Fatima, her murder, the investigation and subsequent trial in Parts 1 and 2 of this series. So, please do go back and listen to those episodes before continuing further with this one.
The death of Fatima Patel is not the only murder case Rameez has been linked to.
In the final part of this series, we will explore the suspicious murders of Rameez’s mother, Mahejeen Banu Patel, his father Firoz, and the father-in-law of his second wife, Yunuz Mayet.
We will also explore two other unsolved murders, where Rameez is named as a prime suspect.
In Part 2 of this series, we ended off with details on the Fatima Patel trial, and indicated that after surviving an assassination attempt, Rameez’ brother, Razeen, had fled the coutnry with his family, claiming he was in fear of his life for cooperating with the State.
The National Prosecuting Authority would, after two months, convince the brother to return to testify against Rameez.
During his testimony in November 2018, Razeen revealed the sordid details of what had allegedly transpired after Fatima Patel was killed, and he had implicated Rameez as the mastermind behind his wife’s murder, and his second wife Nasreen Mayet as the accomplice who helped him get rid of crucial evidence.
Now, to make sense of the events we will discuss in this episode, we have to weave the stories involving Rameez’ mother, father, and father-in-law into the timeline of the Fatima Patel murder trial.
Who murdered Feroz Patel?
While he was out on R250 000 bail, on Friday 12 August 2016, Rameez’ father, Feroz, was gunned down on Platinum Street in Polokwane.
A police report that came out at the time revealed that Feroz, who was 54 years old at the time, was driving around Polokwane when he realised that he was being pursued by two vehicles.
Under pressure and understandably afraid for his life, Feroz lost control of his vehicle and crashed into a brick wall of a building on Platinum Street.
Four armed men approached Feroz’ car and emptied their cartridges on the 54-year-old, killing him instantly.
It is said that a bag with unknown content was removed from the car, leading authorities to conclude that Feroz was a victim of an armed robbery.
Friends and relatives of the Patel family have long believed, however, that Feroz’s death was no coincidence and that, in one way or the other, Rameez could have had something to do with it.
Those with intimate knowledge of the family’s happenings behind closed doors suggest that Rameez was on the verge of being booted from the family by its patriarch, Feroz, following the embarrassment that was brought about by the murder of Fatima.
A source close to the family spoke anonymously to the Sunday Times in 2018 about Feroz, describing him as the ‘king of the throne’ in Limpopo’s retail industry.
“He worked hard for his family and his sons. The sons ran a shop in town and the father ran a number of other businesses here in Polokwane, Giyani and Thohoyandou,” he said.
Another anonymous figure with intimate knowledge of the family’s ongoings told the publication that Rameez had inherited ownership of wholesale outlets from his father and when he was arrested for killing his wife, Feroz had isolated him from the Patel family.
“That was an embarrassment to the family and his father tried to talk some sense into him, I understand that he later lost a number of privileges and he was on the verge of losing his share in the family business as well.”
Bizarrely, Feroz, a man revered in his community as a leader suffered a violent death and questions remain unanswered about who was responsible.
Rameez, who was never formally charged with his father’s death continued on with his pursuit of acquittal in the case of his wife.
Unsolved Murders SA unpacks the death of Mahejeen Ban Patel
A year went by with no progress in the Fatima Patel murder trial. Rameez’s defence locked heads with the state, making appeals that halted proceedings for months on end.
Then, on Tuesday 19 September 2017, tragedy struck once again in the Patel family.
This time, the matriarch, Mahejeen Banu Patel, had been targeted in a home invasion.
According to police at the time, Mahejeen was with her domestic worker, Sarah Malatji (you remember her from Part 2),at approximately 19:00 when an armed gunman entered her house in Nirvana and unleashed a hail of bullets.
Mahejeen clung onto life but was pronounced dead in hospital a few hours later.
Miraculously, Sarah had not been struck by the gunfire and coincidentally, no valuable items were taken during the invasion.
This led investigators to believe that, in all likelihood, the person behind the murder of Mahejeen was after one thing, and one thing only – her life.
Colonel Moatshe Ngoepe, Limpopo’s police spokesperson, surfaced two weeks later announcing that Rameez, who was fighting to clear his name in the Fatima Patel case, was formally charged with the murder of his mother.
“Through our dedicated teams of the Westernburg Detectives, the deceased’s son was positively linked to this murder which led to his arrest… The motive behind the killing is still not clear as nothing was taken from the deceased’s house,” Ngoepe said.
The motive would be the missing puzzle that exonerated Rameez from prosecution in his mother’s case.
According to Rameez’s close friends, who have stuck by his side since the death of his wife, the businessman absolutely adored his mother and would not have sanctioned the violent attack that befell the 51-year-old.
One of his friends, who spoke anonymously to the Post in 2017, stressed that Rameez was a man with many enemies who would have done anything to do away with him.
Adding further context, the source said:
“He would never do such a heinous crime. His mum was his life. She looked after his kids when they lost their mum. She was their support system, even though she lost her husband, she stayed strong for her grandkids.”
During bail hearings for Mahejeen’s murder, however, allegations emerged that the mother had warned relatives and close friends that she feared Rameez would kill her one day.
This was further corroborated by figures close to the family who spoke to the media in anonymity.
The rumour mill in Nirvana, perpetuated by Patel relatives who have since fled the country, suggested that Rameez had killed his parents as a result of being ostracised from the family’s wealth following his involvement in the Fatima Patel murder.
Relatives of Rameez moved out of South Africa and sold the wholesale chain inherited from the deaths of Feroz and Mahejeen.
“When his father and mother died, he was to get all the shops and wealth that the father has worked hard for. If he could walk out of jail, he was going to get all the businesses. Relatives now had to sell the shops,” sources claimed.
The State fought for Rameez to be held in custody for allegedly killing his mother. During a bail hearing on Thursday 12 October 2017, the State played an audio recording of a conversation between Nasreen Mayet, Rameez’s second wife, the same woman he was involved with while married to Fatima, and her ex-husband Abdul Nazim.
In it, Nasreem was heard describing Rameez as an abusive psychopath who hired hitmen to do away with people who brought problems in his life.
The court heard Nasreem tell Abdul that she was afraid of leaving Rameez as he had threatened, on multiple occasions, to kidnap her children.
Nasreen, in the audio recording, also informed her ex-husband that in June 2017, Rameez had categorically told her that he “wanted to put his mother away”.
Coincidentally, that is exactly what happened to Mahejeen four months later.
Nasreen would shockingly deny all these claims under cross-examination, claiming that she was under duress at the time of the conversation.
In a bizarre twist, Rameez’s second wife went from admitting that she feared her husband would kill her if he had found the recorded conversation, to accusing her ex-husband of blackmailing her into participating in the audio recording.
The defence piggybacked on this shift in momentum and introduced the younger brother Razeem as the main culprit with enough probable cause to kill his mother.
Rameez argued that Razeen had physically abused his mother on multiple occasions in the past. This was corroborated by records of domestic violence reports made by Mahejeen against Razeen.
This aspect of the investigation was never pursued by investigators since they had every reason to believe that Rameez had committed the murder, and the defence chastised the state for this.
Rameez’s lawyers stressed that no other leads were ever pursued in the case, and that the businessman who was on trial for killing his wife was used as a scapegoat for police inefficiency in the murder of his mother.
Sarah Malatji, the only credible witness who was in the house the evening Mahejeen was murdered refused to step forward to testify for the state.
She, like many others, have cited fears of being killed as the reason behind their refusal to cooperate with the investigation.
With no witnesses willing to come forward, and a shaky case docket, the Polokwane High Court dismissed the Mahejeen murder charge and ordered the release of Rameez.
The case is still open with Rameez still considered a prime suspect.
The brutal murder of Yunuz Mayet
Mystery would not surround Rameez for another year. Then, on Saturday 8 September 2018, Nasreen’s father, Yunus Mayet, was targeted in an ambush.
According to a police report released at the time, Yunus and his family had been at a local shopping mall all day that fateful Saturday.
The family returned home in Sterpark at approximately 23:00, when three men parked in a black Volkwagen Golf unleashed a hail of gunfire targeted at the family.
The gunfire, it was later determined, was used as a fear tactic to stun the family while unidentified men grabbed and shoved Yunus in the trunk of the car.
Police also reported that the gunmen took the family’s watches, cellphones and cash before they left with Yunus.
The Mayet patriarch would suffer a horrific death.
His bullet-riddled body was discovered almost 10km away, near the Polokwane airport on Silicon Road.
Police revealed that the suspects had destroyed the cellphones and dumped them in several locations, perhaps, on their way to execute Yunus.
Yunus had, before his murder, been assisting Rameez with running his businesses while he was in jail.
Sources close to the Mayet family spoke in anonymity with The Sunday Times, in 2018 and made startling claims about Yunus’ murder case.
The source, who was described as a person working closely with the Mayets, revealed that Yunus did not approve of Rameez’s arranged marriage to his daughter Nasreen.
According to the source, Yunus had tolerated the relationship for his daughter’s sake but, in truth, he was never fond of Rameez.
“The fight Rameez and Fatima had on the day of her death was because of this suspected relationship Rameez had with Nasreen. Her father did not approve of this relationship at all,” the source said.
Rameez was never linked to the murder and to this day, the kidnapping and subsequent murder of Yunus remains unsolved.
Rameez Patel trial: Here’s everything we know so far
Several postponements continued to scupper progress in the Fatima Patel murder trial.
Proceedings took off once again between October 2020 and April 2021, where Rameez was placed under cross-examination.
He was questioned about his whereabouts on the day of the murder, about his reluctance to hand over evidence and his brother’s allegations, all to which he would plainly respond, “I don’t recall.”
The cross-examination was cut short after Polokwane High Court judge Joseph Raulinga had to question three registrars who had not transcribed court recordings, two years after he had made the ruling.
The judge also had to investigate how his notes had been tampered with, and how a court statement had suspiciously gone missing.
The trial was postponed to July 2021, to allow registrars time to transcribe court recordings and make submissions by 31 April 2021.
Rameez’s cross-examination continued in July and the court heard, for the first time, about an audio recording he supposedly had in his position where his younger brother, Razeen, claims he was coerced by the police to implicate him in Fatima’s murder.
This was new information the State who never received a copy of the recording.
Rameez had also claimed that Razeen and his wife were back in South Africa living with him and, despite rumours of tensions, things were pretty cordial between them.
Rameez was also questioned about certain inconsistencies in his version of events. It was revealed in court that, at the time of the murder, there had been construction work done in the complex they resided in and, according to experts, it would have not only been impossible for an intruder to slip in and out of the house unnoticed, but that they would have had to overcome many obstructions on their path.
Rameez, in response, suggested that one of the construction workers may have committed the murder.
He also vehemently denied ever changing his outfits multiple times after he found Fatima’s body.
Riots that had broken out in Gauteng and KwaZulu-Natal at the time caused further delays in the trial.
Despite numerous efforts from Rameez to have the case thrown out of court, the State forged ahead and in January 2022 a decision was reached by the Polokwane High Court to host the last phase of the trial in April.
The trial was expected to commence in the first week of January but Rameez contracted COVID-19 and was forced into isolation.
The murder trial will commence on 4 April 2022.
Rameez Patel has not been charged for the murders of his mother, Mahejeen, his father Feroz, and his father-in-law Yunus.
Rameez has also been implicated in two other murders that he was never charged for.
One involved a teenage boy who broke into his home and another involving an Ethiopian man – but he was never tried, because one of the cases was withdrawn and the other was treated as mob justice.