Tragic end to search for Port Alfred man

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Police have opened an inquest docket after the body of Port Alfred resident Jack Jessen, 78, was recovered along the town’s coastline on Friday February 16. The police do not suspect foul play.

Police spokesperson Captain Marius McCarthy confirmed that Jessen’s body was recovered. He said it is believed that the Wesley Heights resident went missing while on his daily walk to West Beach on Thursday February 15.

Earlier on Friday, around 40 residents volunteered to help search for Jessen, who was last seen in the Wesley Heights area on Thursday morning.

Coordinating the search along and around Beach Road area was Colonel Yogan Reddy of the South African Police Service, a Multi-Security armed response team and a group of concerned citizens ready to assist.

“A search for the missing person resumed at about 9am along the route he normally walks. The lifeless body of Jack Jessen was found along the shoreline at about 2pm. No foul play is suspected,” said McCarthy. Jessen’s body was recovered near Rufane River mouth.

Ward 10 councillor Nadine Haynes who had rallied community members to help with the search, said the number of people who came to help showed the town was a united community.

Colonel Yogan Reddy gives instructions to the search party who came out to help on Friday February 16 try and locate 78 year old Wesley Heights resident in Port Alfred Jack Jessen who was reported missing the day before. Picture: MARK CARRELS

Led by Reddy and Multi Security’s Fred Cannon, the parties split up to search from West Beach to Kelly’s Beach; from Kelly’s Beach to Shelly’s Beach; West Beach Drive and the adjacent bush; and the area around Kiddie’s Beach, in Beach Road.

Jessen’s habit was to leave early in the morning for a walk from his Wesley Hill home, turning before the traffic light on to West Beach drive. He would walk down to West Beach and sit a bench below Guido’s restaurant.

Haynes said she understood that Jessen suffered from Meniere’s syndrome, an inner-ear disorder that causes episodes of vertigo.

While he had his mobile phone with him it had either been switched off or run flat. He had left his valuables next to his bed at home, Haynes told the volunteers.

He had been seen walking on his own along Beach Road, near Kiddie’s Beach, towards West Beach at 6am on Thursday.

After Jessen’s body was found at East Beach, Haynes said, “Our thoughts and prayers are with his wife Glenda and his family both here and abroad.”

In a subsequent social media post, the Ward 10 councillor thanked officials and the  community for coming together to search for Jessen.

“Mr Jessen was reported missing in the late afternoon on Thursday and the Official Security personnel and other members of the community had been searching into the night,” Haynes said. “At 8am on Friday morning I sent out a plea to the Community of Port Alfred to please join us in a search operation for Mr Jessen.”

The officials briefed community members on the process. The following role players had been involved in the search and recovery operation, Haynes said:

SAPS Vispol
Captain Laubscher, W/O Pienaar, W/O Hurn, Sergeant Witbooi
Detective Lt Col Reddy
Security Companies: Multi, Sky and Panther, as well as Stenden security
Ndlambe Municipality’s community safety department staff Mark Dickson and Willem Nel
Ndlambe Fire and Emergency Services
CPF members
Port Alfred community members
A specialised dog unit from East London
A drone operator, using it to scan the area.

“Within approximately 90 minutes, the operation ended in the tragic discovery of the now late Mr Jessen whose body had been washed up on the East Beach near Rufane River Mouth,” Haynes said. “On behalf of his family and friends, I would like to once again, thank each and every one of you who took part in this combined effort.”

  • Article updated on 19 February 2024 to include additional information and comments.

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