BIG POND NEWS TUESDAY, MARCH 5, 2013
West Australian widow and grandmother Jette Jacobs believed an online dating website had given her another chance at love and life.
Instead, WA police are now investigating her mysterious death in a rented villa in South Africa, while her family believe she may have been murdered by a Nigerian man who scammed her out of more than $80,000.
Ms Jacobs left her home in Wagin, southeast of Perth, in late November on a trip she believed would seal her online romance of four years with the man she knew as 'Jesse Orowo Omokoh'.
It emerged Ms Jacobs had sent at least $80,000 to Nigeria during this time and met the man known as 'Jesse' during a visit to Johannesburg in 2010 without incident.
During her last visit, Ms Jacobs was to meet 'Jesse' for a second time but after weeks of no contact, her family was seriously worried.
Local police found Ms Jacobs' body in a Johannesburg villa on February 9.
Her money, credit cards, jewellery, laptop computer and other personal items were missing.
Detective Senior Sergeant Dom Blackshaw of WA's Major Fraud Squad said there was evidence 'Jesse' had arrived in Johannesburg two days before reporting her death and giving a statement to local police.
'The circumstances of Ms Jacobs' death are still being investigated but there is evidence that it is suspicious,' Det Snr Sgt Blackshaw said.
'These relationship frauds are being perpetrated by ruthless overseas criminals who are members of organised crime syndicates.
'To travel to Africa to visit someone you have met on the internet is extremely dangerous and could, as in the case of Ms Jacobs, cost your life.'
Ms Jacobs' son, who did not want to be identified, said the deadly scam was a warning to others.
'The second time Mum went over for a couple of months and did not return. The consequences of this internet scam has taken her life,' he said.
'We all tried to talk her out of it, even some of her best friends. No one could convince her that it was not real ... she kept believing it was.
'We weren't strong enough to stop her. Hopefully we can make others understand there is nothing for them in Africa.
'Don't go, they are running a scam to lure people to go to Africa - and there is a possibility it could be a one-way ticket.'
Gary Newcombe, WA's Acting Commissioner for Consumer Protection, said the scammers were heartless professionals.
'This is a tragedy where someone who is simply looking for love has lost their life,' he said.
The WA fraud squad, which is running Operation Sunbird to detect online scammers, revealed last month that WA victims had been conned out of nearly $4.5 million in the last six months.
Tragically, Operation Sunbird officers had sent a letter to Ms Jacobs, warning her she was the victim of a fraud - but it arrived after she had left for Africa.