Murder victim and mom performed ‘sensual massages’
The mysterious disappearance of 20-year-old Siam Lee, and the grisly discovery of her charred body in a sugar-cane plantation two days later, has exposed a secret brothel in a posh Durban neighbourhood.
Pictures of a topless Siam and her mother, Carmen Nan Lee, in lingerie have surfaced following her disappearance last Thursday.
The Crawford College matriculant was last seen 10 days ago outside a Durban North house, barefoot and in a summer dress. Initial appeals by her family described an “abduction” from the house by a spurned lover.
But central to the police investigation of her murder is a six-bedroom house on Margaret Maytom Avenue, close to a prominent high school. The house is believed to be a brothel.
Attempting to piece together Siam’s final hours, police and a team of private investigators made a tour of the city’s sex houses.
They established that Siam and her mother allegedly performed “sensual massages” in a room of the house.
Police sources confirmed that Carmen was taken in for questioning on Friday. She was not detained or charged.
Siam featured in an advert on an adult website, redvelvet.co.za, a portal which claims to make all manner of “fantasies come true”.
“Make all your fantasies come true with our very gorgeous and ready to please escorts and modles [sic] in South Africa. Redvelvet escorts give you the best in adult entertainment,” it reads.
The site describes Siam as a “stunning young college babe” who was available during business hours.
She did not, according to the site, offer “FH”, understood to mean the full house of sexual encounters.
A source close to the investigation said Carmen had told one policeman that her daughter performed “happy endings”, but did not have sex with clients.
Siam, in an Instagram post two years ago, appears to have foreseen her death. A photo shows her lying on a bed of sugar cane, with the caption: “Don’t mind me, just lying in a field waiting to be abducted.”
Her body was discovered last week in a sugar-cane field by a farmer and his grandson, 132km away in New Hanover.
Her family positively identified her body by her lip piercing and silver nail polish.
“Obviously what the house is used for, and the line of work they are in, complicates things. This is a murky and devious world we are dealing with,” one source said.
On Wednesday, the owner of the Durban North property, who identified himself as Roger Wang, told the Sunday Times that he had let the property to his “friend”.
He said he had bought the house, next to his own, as an investment, but collecting rent through agents had been problematic.
“I never got rent for months, now I give my friend and he takes care of things. He just gives me the money.”
Wang denied any knowledge of the house operating as a brothel.
Carmen refused to answer questions about the house operating as a brothel, or whether her daughter was an escort.
In a video appeal posted on Facebook last Sunday, she said she feared the worst.
“Bring her home … bring my little girl home.
“She’s such a gentle young girl … she’s such a sweet person,” she said.
Neighbours, a local councillor and the head of the Durban North and Umhlanga community policing forum claimed that the house operated as a brothel.
A neighbour, who did not want to be named, said different cars would come and go at all hours of the day and night.
CPF chairman Haden Searles said the house had been raided by police and city officials several times.
The farmer who found Siam’s body told the Sunday Times he had first noticed a patch of charred cane on a secluded road close to his farm.
“We stopped right opposite the patch of burnt ground to see what was going on and then we saw the body.
“I was in the military and I saw some terrible things, but what we found that day really shocked me,” said the farmer, who did not want to be named.
Lieutenant-Colonel Thulani Zwane said the police were treating the case as one or murder. An identikit of a suspect has been released by police.
BY JEFF WICKS