Matthew and Karen Turner were expecting their second child when the pregnant mother was murdered.
Matthew and Karen Turner were expecting their second child when the pregnant mother was murdered.

Hunt for killer who hacked mum to death

A desperate manhunt is under way for the killer of a pregnant mother who was bludgeoned to death in front of her family while sleeping at a luxury resort in South Africa.

Police officers and sniffer dogs were today spotted scouring the surrounds of the crime scene at Hluleka Game Reserve, about 400km southwest of Durban, in the Eastern Cape. They were reportedly searching for the murder weapon and any trace of the attacker(s).

It was inside one of the resort's beachfront chalet's where Karen Turner, 31, was slain in the early hours of Tuesday morning. Her unborn child was also killed in the attack.

The young mother, who was three months pregnant, had arrived at the venue the day prior, to celebrate her birthday with her husband Matthew, 33, and their 23-month-old son Hayden. A few friends joined them on the trip and were staying in a cabin next door.

But what was supposed to be a few days of relaxed fun before attending a wedding later in the week ended in tragedy when two men armed with knives reportedly broke into the Turners' self-contained lodge and launched a frenzied attack, about 3am.

 

Sergeant Songezile Katikati and his German shepherd tracker dog comb the area on Wednesday around the scene of a brutal killing and stabbing at Hluleka Game Reserve. Image: Lulamile Feni
Sergeant Songezile Katikati and his German shepherd tracker dog comb the area on Wednesday around the scene of a brutal killing and stabbing at Hluleka Game Reserve. Image: Lulamile Feni

 

 

Karen Turner described her new husband as her “favourite person” in a Facebook post. Picture: Facebook
Karen Turner described her new husband as her “favourite person” in a Facebook post. Picture: Facebook

 

Karen Turner was three months pregnant at the time of her death. Picture: Facebook
Karen Turner was three months pregnant at the time of her death. Picture: Facebook

 

Friends paid tribute to Karen Turner, describing her as a “loving” and “adventurous” person. Picture: Facebook.
Friends paid tribute to Karen Turner, describing her as a “loving” and “adventurous” person. Picture: Facebook.

Karen, a primary school teacher from Underberg in KwaZulu-Natal, was stabbed to death in bed and her husband - who survived - savagely knifed in front of their toddler, who was uninjured. The child is understood to be in the care of his maternal aunt while his father recovers in hospital.

Karen died almost instantly, police said. The couple's unborn child was also killed.

Police spokeswoman Captain Dineo Koena said investigations into the murder were continuing.

"There is no arrest at this stage,'' she said.

News24 reports that police at the chalet were today heard saying they were searching for the knife used to stab the couple.

An autopsy was this morning carried out on Karen's body but the findings are yet to be released.

Karen's brother, Ian Crouch, told DispatchLIVE: "We will remove the body and the funeral parlour will take her to KwaZulu-Natal".

Mr Crouch said the family was pleased with the status of the investigation.

"They are looking for the attackers,'' he said.

 

Matthew and Karen Turner on their wedding day.
Matthew and Karen Turner on their wedding day.

 

Matthew and Karen Turner were both South African.
Matthew and Karen Turner were both South African.

Matthew was stabbed repeatedly and later flown to a hospital in Pietermaritzburg where he underwent surgery, according to police.

He remains in an intensive care unit where he is recovering from severe upper-body injuries. The motive for the callous attack is not yet known.

According to Ms Koena, friends of the couple who were staying at a chalet next door, woke to "shouting and a struggle" so went to check on them. Moments later they made a horrifying discovery.

"The husband opened the door and he was bleeding. The wife was dead on her back," Ms Koena said. "The husband was rushed to hospital in Mthatha in a stable condition."

Ms Koena said there were no signs of forced entry but everything inside the house was upside down.

"It was not like a robbery because no valuables were taken," she said.

According to police, the arrest of at least one suspect is imminent.

"It is just a matter of time," Ms Koena said.

 

Matthew and Karen Turner.
Matthew and Karen Turner.

 

Matthew Turner suffered severe upper body injuries in the attack. Picture: Facebook
Matthew Turner suffered severe upper body injuries in the attack. Picture: Facebook

A family friend of the Turners - both South African nationals - who spoke to the DispatchLIVE via WhatsApp on condition of anonymity, said the couple was on the trip to celebrate Karen's birthday.

"The friends who were with them in another cottage heard Hayden screaming and screaming and could not understand why nobody was attending to him … they went over to see what was wrong and found Kari had already past (sic) away and Matthew was in a critical condition," the source said.

Karen's older brother, Mr Crouch said the couple had been on their way to a wedding and had taken the week off to spend some time together.

"They had arrived there that day," he said. "It was a long day and they were shattered."

 

The Hluleka Nature Reserve is located in the Eastern Cape province of South Africa.
The Hluleka Nature Reserve is located in the Eastern Cape province of South Africa.

 

Matthew and Karen, a school teacher, were expecting their second child.
Matthew and Karen, a school teacher, were expecting their second child.

Mr Crouch told News24 that he had spoken to his brother-in-law since the attack.

"Matthew's recollection was that he was woken up by being stabbed in the stomach by a guy on his side of the bed and there was another chap stabbing my sister," Mr Crouch said.

"He said he managed to sort of grab the guy and there was a tussle down the stairs.

"They didn't demand anything. They didn't ask for money. They literally came up, stabbed him and my sister. He (Matthew) thinks they left because he managed to get up and fight a bit.

"He thinks because of the resistance, they left. They didn't have time to take anything because he had chased them out."

Mr Crouch said he later drove to the scene where he found the windows and balcony door open. He described what he saw inside as a "bloodbath".

"You can see it started upstairs in the bedroom," he said.

Mr Crouch said his sister was about three months pregnant and died a day after celebrating her 31st birthday. The couple had just bought a home together in Underberg on the farm that Matthew manages.

They married in July 2017 and Hayden was born four months later, Mr Crouch said.

 

Karen and Matthew Turner with their son Hayden.
Karen and Matthew Turner with their son Hayden.

'ABSOLUTELY TRAGIC'

Eastern Cape Parks and Tourism Agency CEO Vuyani Dayimani confirmed the Turners were booked in at the reserve from Monday to Thursday and police were called after a stabbing incident.

"As an agency who manage the reserve we are shocked that his taken place in one of our flagship coastal reserves as the safety and security of our guests is our key priority," he said.

Tributes for the family have poured in online.

Matthew's friend, Darryl Louch, wrote on Facebook: "I have such a heavy heart today. Matthew Turner my heart bleeds for you mate. You have risen above challenges in the past, but nothing you have ever endured will make this one any easier. Something that we will never ever understand, but all we can do is stand by and pray for you and Hayden (son) during this incredibly tough time.

"Karen, may you rest in peace knowing that your boys are taken care of and will be looked after by those you leave behind. My support and prayers are with both the Turner and Crouch families during this horrific time."

 

Karen Turner and her mother. Picture: Facebook
Karen Turner and her mother. Picture: Facebook

 

Karen and Matthew Turner on a snowboarding trip. Picture: Facebook
Karen and Matthew Turner on a snowboarding trip. Picture: Facebook

Another friend, Micky Hayter, commented on the post: "Absolutely tragic. So, so sad indeed."

Former schoolmate Ian Crawford said Matthew was well liked by his peers and many looked up to him.

"He played rugby and liked to be outdoors. It is very tragic news," he wrote.

 

megan.palin@news.com.au | @Megan_Palin


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