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Ex-S.African first lady murdered

CAPE TOWN, South Africa -- The former first lady of South Africa, Marike de Klerk, has been murdered at her home in Cape Town.

Police say an autopsy revealed that the 64-year-old former wife of F.W. de Klerk had been stabbed and strangled.

Marike de Klerk's body was discovered on Tuesday afternoon, about 30 hours after coroners estimated she had died.

The autopsy revealed that the cause of death was strangulation.

Police spokesman Wicus Holtzhausen said she had also been stabbed in the back. "The stab wound ... was not the cause of death," he added.

De Klerk also had cuts on her arms, which police believe could have been sustained trying to fend off a knife attack.

There were no immediate arrests and police did not admit to having any suspects.

South Africa has one of the world's highest per-capita murder rates. More than 9,800 homicides were committed in the first half of this year, according to police statistics.

De Klerk's body was found about 4p.m. on Tuesday after her hairdresser, arriving for an appointment, became concerned when she did not answer the door.

The hairdresser summoned neighbourhood security guards who found the body at the entrance to her bedroom.

Nothing was missing from de Klerk's house and the motive for her killing was unknown, Holtzhauzen said.

The de Klerks divorced in 1998 after 39 years of marriage.

As her husband rose through the ranks of the ruling National Party during apartheid, his wife also was politically active, eventually leading the party's women's organisation.

F.W. de Klerk said in a statement released on Wednesday he was devastated and deeply shocked at the circumstances under which his ex-wife had died.

"I have learned with great shock and sorrow of the circumstances of the tragic death of my former wife, Marike," he said.

"I have been informed that the South African Police Service is conducting a murder inquiry and hope that they bring the person or persons involved to justice as soon as possible."

The former president cancelled plans to attend a ceremony to commemorate the centenary of the Nobel Peace Prize in Norway and was heading back to South Africa, his spokesman Dave Steward said.

F.W. de Klerk gave up power to Nelson Mandela after South Africa's first all-race elections in 1994.

The two shared the 1993 Nobel Peace Prize for their role in bringing about a peaceful end to apartheid.

President Thabo Mbeki expressed his condolences Tuesday in a statement and described de Klerk as a "strong, charming and dignified woman."


• South Africa Police Service
• Crime in South Africa

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