November 18 2007 at 10:24AM
By Helen Bamford and Bronwynne Jooste
Respected University of Cape Town commercial law professor Mike Larkin, 58, who was stabbed to death by two muggers in Rondebosch on Friday, used to walk everywhere because he was partially sighted and unable to drive.
His murder has sparked an outpouring of anger and grief from colleagues and students alike, who have described him as a gentle and caring father figure and an excellent lecturer.
Larkin's attackers, who stabbed him repeatedly when he resisted their attempts to steal his bag in Roslyn Road, are still at large, said police spokesman Elliot Sinyangana.
'He was our favourite and loved by us all'
Law faculty manager Mike Watermeyer, who is blind, said he and Larkin had shared the challenge of dealing with visual impairment in an "unforgiving and dangerous society".
"We could not drive so we walked - everywhere. It is ironic that the very bravado which characterised our banter about having to walk home at night is what exposed Mike to the vicious attack to which he has now succumbed," said Watermeyer.
He said Larkin, who was divorced, was an accomplished academic and a man of immense fairness and moral integrity. "He was also a superb head of department in commercial law; a humble and concerned human being who had time for everyone."
Watermeyer said he had not only lost a colleague, but a good friend and someone from whom he had learned a great deal. "Not least of which was how to deal with the reality of my recently broken family. He gave me the strength to go on through sharing his own experience of that difficult time."
Watermeyer said he was angry and in despair over the murder.
'It's very weird to speak about him in the past tense'
"I weep for my loss. I weep for all of us who share this grief. And I weep for my country."
Final-year law student Lucy Garrod said she and her fellow students had recently finished exams and would soon be graduating. "But it won't be the same now. He was our favourite and loved by us all."
She said the murder had made her think again about the purpose of studying law in a lawless society.
Garrod said a number of her friends had been mugged in recent weeks. "One friend was coming back from the library when four or five guys with knives appeared out of nowhere. They turned her backpack upside down and stole her cellphone and ID."
She said she knew of other female students who had had similar experiences.
Garrod added that students would gather tomorrow to discuss the possibility of taking some kind of action, possibly a peace march in memory of Larkin.
Larkin's cousin, Marion Heap, said everyone loved him. "And he was our beloved," she said.
Professor Martin West, acting vice chancellor of UCT, said they were deeply saddened by Larkin's death and horrified by the manner in which it occurred.
Larkin was head of the commercial law department and was also a member of the UCT senate, the body responsible for academic governance, as well as being a member of the university's animal ethics committee.
West said Larkin had come to the UCT law faculty in January last year after a long and distinguished association both as a student and professor with the University of Witwatersrand's law school. "He was one of this country's top company lawyers and renowned for his expertise in the field."
West extended his sympathy to Larkin's family and friends on behalf of the university and legal colleagues. "His passing is a tremendous loss to the university."
Student Ognyan Savov said Larkin always had a kind word for his students. "I would say he was the most friendly lecturer. You could see he was very devoted, he would be here early in the morning and stay late in the evening. It's very weird to speak about him in the past tense," said Savov.
Masters student David Iwe grew close to Larkin when he supervised Iwe's thesis. "He was fatherly and very concerned about his students. When I heard about it, I thought 'This is like killing the pope'."
John Kandara said despite his abilities as a lecturer, Larkin was humble. "The one thing that really struck me was his self-effacing nature. He would take the most complex information and make it very basic for us to understand. He was really a brilliant lecturer."
A note attached to a bunch of flowers outside Larkin's office, placed there yesterday by a student, described him as "patient, gentle, warm, humble and a good teacher".
"You were the kind of man I'd like to be," it read.
The flowers were also starting to pile up at the spot where Larkin was killed. Nina Johnson, who lives in Roslyn Road, said she had spoken to one of Larkin's aunts.
"She was telling me they were planning to have a family gathering tomorrow in Muizenberg, and for this to happen, it's just a tragedy. We know there is a lot of crime in this area, but this is the first time there's been a killing."
This article was originally published on page 1 of Cape Argus on November 18, 2007