POLICE in South Africa have begun a murder investigation after an Irishman was found dead at his apartment.
John Curran had held a senior position for the Mellon Educate charity in Cape Town.
The father-of-four had previously worked as a school principal in Dublin, and was well-known in education circles on a national level in Ireland.
He was found dead yesterday morning at his apartment. It is understood that police were called after a colleague had gone to the apartment when Mr Curran hadn’t been seen in some time. His family has been informed.
It is understood the victim’s phone was missing but police in South Africa haven’t confirmed whether it was robbery or not.
It is also understood that a person was seen on CCTV footage leaving the apartment with their face covered in the early hours of yesterday morning.
South African investigators confirmed to Independent.ie that the incident is being treated as a murder.
“We can confirm that police arrived at the apartment block and found a body with stab wounds, to the body
“We have assigned a senior detective to the case and carried out a forensic investigation of the apartment and sampling.
“This is definitely being investigated as a case of murder,” Captain Ezra October of the Cape Town Central police department said.
The senior officer added that CCTV footage of the apartment complex where Mr Curran had been living would be reviewed.
His body was today formally identified by a colleague and the company he worked with are liaising with his family in Ireland, Cpt October said.
Mr Curran, aged in his 60s, was living in the apartment.
A post-mortem will be carried out on the deceased either tomorrow or on Monday, according to investigators.
In a statement the Department of Foreign Affairs said it is aware of the situation and is “is providing consular assistance.”
Mellon Educate posted a tribute to their “dear colleague” this afternoon.
“With great sadness we learned yesterday that our dear colleague and friend John Curran was killed during a robbery in his apartment in Cape Town South Africa,” they wrote on Facebook.
They wrote that John had only recently completed a two-year contract as Director of Education for Mellon Educate in South Africa and was staying on vacation in Cape Town for a number of weeks.
Niall Mellon, CEO said:
“I know our many volunteers and supporters will be very sad to hear this tragic news. John was much loved by everyone who met him and especially by the thousands of children he helped during his time with Mellon Educate.
“We are assisting his family in every way we can and your warm wishes of empathy are sincerely appreciated.”
Meanwhile, the Irish Primary Principals Network also issued a lengthy statement on Mr Curran’s passing.
“It is with a profound sense of shock, sadness and disbelief that we acknowledge the sudden passing of John Curran, highly esteemed colleague and friend to all in IPPN, in South Africa today, 7th November.
“We are numbed and finding it very hard to process the information,” they said.
They added that he had been predeceased a son, who died in an accident accident in 2010, and is survived by his wife and three children.
“Our hearts go out to his family, his very wide circle of friends, his colleagues and all who knew him,” it adds.
“A founding member of IPPN, John served on the IPPN Executive Committee (now the Board of Directors) from 2000 to 2007 and was PRO from 2005 to 2009. During his sixteen years as Principal of Good Shepherd NS, Churchtown, Dublin 14 until his early retirement in June 2005, John was involved in numerous projects with IPPN, including advocating in relation to principals’ workload, boards of management and school funding, as well as supporting fellow school leaders directly and in the development of services through his role on the Executive Committee.”
“We are all indebted to him for all his work over many years, all of which was completely voluntary. On a personal level, we will greatly miss his wonderful sense of humour, his infectious laugh and his ability to lighten the most serious topic.
“John was so passionate about his recent work in South Africa, as Director of Education for Mellon Educate, a role he began in October 2016. He was tireless in empowering teachers and principals.”
And the Good Sheperd National School, where Mr Curran was principal for 14 years, also paid tribute;
“We received some very sad news yesterday evening. Our founding Principal, Mr John Curran died tragically in South Africa. In recent years he was the Director of Education at Mellon Educate, a non-profit organisation, where he has worked tirelessly to renovate schools and improve the standard of education for those less fortunate in townships in South Africa.
“John was Principal of the Good Shepherd National School from 1989 -2005. An innovative educator, John’s vision and enthusiasm still influence our ethos and can be seen at work throughout our school today.
“We are proud to continue the work he began here in 1989.
“We know that many of you share our fond memories of John. He will be sadly missed by parents, staff, past pupils and all those in the wider Good Shepherd school community.
“A book of condolence will be open in the school foyer from 11.00am Thursday 8th November.
“Our thoughts and prayers are with John’s family at this incredibly difficult time.
“Ar Dheis Dé go raibh a anam dílis,” they added.
Mr Curran was also instrumental in bringing Irish teachers and principals to Africa as part of the Teachers’ Blitz projects in 2017 and 2018, to build schools, improve existing school infrastructure, and support school leaders’ professional development.
Speaking on RTÉ News at One, IPPN President David Ruddy said Mr Curran was a “visionary” and an “exceptional leader” with an “infectious smile” who was “very much loved.”
Mr Ruddy said that Mr Curran found his work in South Africa “very rewarding and equally very challenging.”
He then recited a famous quote by former South African leader Nelson Mandela – “education is the most powerful weapon we can use to change the world” – and said that Mr Curran “lived and embodied every piece of that statement.”
Mr Ruddy further said Mr Curran and his family had experienced great sorrow before when they lost their son Eoin in a sailing accident in New York.
Eoin Ruddy was just 30 at the time of the tragedy in July 2010. He was working for Google at the time of his death.