The death of a 67-year-old widow from Wagin whose body was found in her rented villa in South Africa is being investigated after it was revealed she travelled to the country to visit a Nigerian man she was courting in an online relationship.
Jette Jacobs left Perth on November 22 and was found dead by South African police last month, on February 9.
Detective Senior Sergeant Dom Blackshaw of the major fraud squad said the circumstances of Mrs Jacob’s death were suspicious and under investigation.
He said Mrs Jacobs’ money, credit cards, jewellery, laptop computer and other personal items were missing from the villa.
Mrs Jacobs lost her husband in 2002 and her subsequent partner seven years later, in 2009.
She then met a man purporting to be Jesse Orowo Omokoh from Nigeria, on a dating website, where they had regular contact over a four-year period.
Police said Mrs Jacobs sent up to $100,000 to Nigeria and met the man known as “Jesse” during a visit to Johannesburg in 2010 without incident.
During her last visit, Mrs Jacobs was to meet “Jesse” for a second time but he said he could not get a visa to join her immediately.
Det. Sen. Sgt. Blackshaw said there was evidence “Jesse” had arrived in Johannesburg two days before reporting her death and giving a statement to local police.
The tragedy was revealed as several other WA residents came forward with scam stories, including an Albany man who wanted to be known only as Allen.
Allen was defrauded of about $11,000 by a woman in Ghana and even bought a plane ticket intending to marry the woman before police arrived at his home to warn him it was a possible scam.
“She said her mother was sick in hospital, so I sent money over,” he said.
“She sent me photos and a birth certificate so I could get her a visa but they turned out to be fake,” he said.
“I didn’t think it would happen to me. It’s pretty scary, it’s organised crime.”
The fraud squad, which is running Project Sunbird with consumer protection to detect online scammers, wrote a letter to Mrs Jacobs warning her she may be the victim of relationship fraud after they tracked large amounts of money _being sent from WA to West African countries.
But the letter arrived after Mrs Jacobs had left Australia.
Police believe between 400 and 600 West Australians are sending up to $1 million to romance scammers in West Africa each month.
Diane Stephens from Wagin Bowling Club, where Mrs Jacobs used to bowl, said the mother of six had cut ties with the club after losing her last partner.
“She just disappeared a bit off our radar after that,” she said.
Commissioner for Consumer Protection Anne Driscoll said romance scam victims often became so entrenched in online relationships that they withdrew from family and friends.