Online date gran 'murdered'

Rhianna King, The West AustralianUpdated March 4, 2013, 2:40 am


Police fear a WA great-grandmother who was found dead in South Africa was murdered by a Nigerian scammer she met on an online dating site.

The body of Wagin woman Jette Jacobs, 67, was found in a Johannesburg guest house on February 9, more than two months after she travelled to meet 28-year-old Jesse Orowo Omokoh.

Mr Omokoh was the last person to see Ms Jacobs alive and told police he found her body. He has since disappeared.

Ms Jacobs, a widow who had six children, struck up an online relationship with Mr Omokoh three years ago and travelled to South Africa to meet him in 2010 before he proposed late last year. Over several years she sent $200,000 to Mr Omokoh and another man she met online, known only as Isaac.

Despite warnings from family, Ms Jacobs went to South Africa in November to marry Mr Omokoh but he failed to turn up until last month, blaming visa troubles.

Two days after he arrived from Nigeria, Ms Jacobs was found dead, with her jewellery and money missing. It is believed South African police initially thought she had committed suicide, as empty pill packets were found nearby.

But the victim's son, who did not want to be identified, said his mother met with foul play.

"We tried to talk her out of it but no one could convince her it wasn't real and there was nothing there for her. But she kept believing there was and unfortunately we weren't strong enough to stop her going," he said.

Detectives from Operation Sunbird - a joint operation with Consumer Protection to investigate online scams - sent Ms Jacobs a letter warning she might have been a victim of fraud but it arrived after she had left Australia.

The victim's youngest daughter, who wanted to be known only as Mrs Jackson, told Seven News Mr Omokoh wanted to move to Australia but her mother wanted to settle in Nigeria.

"My mum paid the ultimate price, which no one should have to," she said. "We don't want to see this happening to anybody else."

Maree, a friend who did not want her surname published, described Ms Jacobs as beautiful and big-hearted. She said Ms Jacobs was lonely. Her husband died in 2002 and her subsequent partner in 2009.

Det. Sen. Const. Robert Martin, from the major fraud squad, said police were in contact with Australian Federal Police officers in Nigeria about Ms Jacobs' death and investigations were in the early stages. He said her death appeared suspicious and he confirmed Mr Omokoh was a suspect.

He said Ms Jacobs forwarded Mr Omokoh $80,000 after they met online and sent him a further $20,000 once she arrived in Johannesburg.

"She actually sold her home believing she was going to be starting a new life overseas and it's ended in tragedy. This is the first time we have seen this happen (to a WA victim,)" he said.

He said relationship scams had become a "massive problem", costing West Australians between $600,000 and $1 million each month.

Acting Commissioner for Consumer Protection Gary Newcombe urged anyone involved in an internet relationship to contact the department for advice.