NEWCASTLE – Looking as if he hasn’t a care in the world, this is the first picture of tragic student Sijabuliso Nkala who was found dead on the C2C cycle path.
Mystery still surrounds how the 24-year-old came to die while riding his bike along the tranquil route that runs alongside the Tyne.
An investigation was launched by Northumbria Police’s Major Crime Team, but detectives have since said they do not believe his death was suspicious.
And today a friend and former housemate of the electrical engineering student told of her shock.
Lucia Cilloni who lived with Sijabuliso in shared digs in Jesmond, said: “He was the kindest guy you could meet. He was just a really simple, nice person. It was such a shock when we found out. I can’t think of any reason why he would harm himself. He was a genuine, peaceful guy, always ready to help out. He was one of my closest friends.”
Sijabuliso, who is from Zimbabwe, had just finished his degree in engineering at Newcastle University when he died.
Lucia, who has known him for four years, said he was considering staying in this country to do a masters degree.
Sijabuliso was found in bushes on the track with a single knife wound to the chest, last Thursday morning. His bike was also found at the scene.
Police attempted to revive him as they waited for paramedics but nothing could be done to save the keen cyclist.
“He used to just go on little bike rides all the time, so he must have been on one of his morning cycles,” added Lucia.
Police confirmed there was “no third party involvement” surrounding the death, which is now being handled by the coroner.
Det Supt Roger Ford said: “My sympathies are with the family and friends of Mr Nikala at this time. I would also like to thank all the people who contacted police following our appeal for information. A report is being prepared for the coroner.”
The head of the faculty where Mr Nkala was studying also has also paid tribute to the “polite and hardworking” man.
Prof Barrie Mecrow, head of the School of Electrical and Electronic Engineering at the university said: “This very sad news of the death of Sijabuliso Nkala, third year Electrical Engineering student, has come as a terrible shock to us all. Affectionately known as Jabu, he was a very modest young man who spoke well of everyone. Around the School, he always had a smile on his face and a positive attitude towards academic work.
“He showed initiative in his approach to coursework and was extremely polite and hardworking. He was a focused individual who will be remembered for his smile and his enthusiasm.”