Body found of abducted cleric who always gave help
The Catholic Church in
The body of Fr Lionel Sham, 66, was discovered by police in Orange Farm, a sprawling informal settlement south of
The death follows the brutal murder of a priest from
Sham’s cousin, John Sham, called The Times early yesterday morning to say that the priest had been abducted from his home, attached to the Our Lady of Africa church in Mohlakeng, outside Randfontein, west of
The family was hopeful that Sham would be found alive but late yesterday they were devastated when Sebokeng police told them that he had been murdered.
They are convinced that Sham was killed by someone to whom he had opened his door. He was known never to refuse help to those who asked for it.
His close friend, the Catholic Archbishop of
He was last seen alive when he presided over a wedding at 7pm on Friday night.
“On Saturday morning he was meant to attend a youth prayer meeting, but he did not show up, which was out of character ,” Tlhagale said.
A spokesman for the SA Catholic Bishops’ Conference, Fr Chris Townsend, said the priest from Klerksdorp, whose name he could not give The Times, was a young man murdered by a group of men to whom he had given a lift.
“He was stabbed repeatedly, bundled into the boot of his car and then buried in a shallow grave. The [killers] then drove to
“The shopkeeper became suspicious and alerted the police. They admitted to the police that they had killed the priest.”
Parishioners discovered that Sham’s car was missing on Saturday morning when they went to look for him.
They found blood and a knife in the priest’s bathroom but no evidence of forced entry.
Later that morning, Sham’s car was found crashed in Deneysville, near Vereeniging. A man police believe took part in the murder was dead in the white Toyota Corolla.
Later yesterday afternoon, police arrested a second suspect who led them to Orange Farm, said Captain Joseph Magoai
Before they learned of his death, Sham’s family and parishioners gathered at the church to pray for their beloved priest.
Parishioner Ephraim Sebele, 24, told The Times he was “heartbroken”.
“He was very kind, he gave people money and food whenever they needed help. But people took advantage of his kindness,” he said.
John Sham said his cousin was a loving man who cared deeply about helping the needy.
JP de Andrade, who knew Sham for “many years”, was deeply shaken on hearing of his murder.
“Two years ago, he was attacked at his parish in Westonaria and though he was upset by the experience he would not stop giving and welcoming people into his life and into his home,” he said.
“Charities and his congregations were his life. He always dropped off food at soup kitchens and helped street children and poor communities.”
Archbishop Tlhagale said “quite a few priests” had been “attacked and killed” in the “past two years”.
“There is a perception that there is money in the Catholic Church, and it is likely that a priest will be alone in his house. The sheer impunity — there was a time when people respected clergy,” he said.
Said Townsend: “The church stands with all who have fallen prey to crime. We commit ourselves to fighting crime in our sad society.”