A woman has been revealed as the main suspect in the murder case of a British banker who was found tied naked to a chair having been tortured with boiling water.

The mutilated body of James Starkey, 36, was found by a colleague on October 8 after he became concerned with the banker's welfare and asked staff to force entry to his luxury apartment at the Raphael Penthouse Suites, in Johannesburg, South Africa.

Paramedics described his injuries as "brutal", and a woman entering the complex with the victim has been identified by police as the main suspect.

Starkey entered the hotel with a female guest the evening of October 7, the night before he was found dead.


Both he and the guest were seen by the complex's staff as they entered through the front entrance, where a biometric security system picks up guests' faces before they walk to the lifts.

James Starkey, who was a dual British-Australian citizen, travelled to South Africa for work. Photo / Facebook
James Starkey, who was a dual British-Australian citizen, travelled to South Africa for work. Photo / Facebook

The guest was not asked to sign the visitor book as she was accompanied by the tenant himself.

No one else is thought to have entered his room.

Starkey is believed to have been found naked and tied to a chair and appeared to have had boiling water poured on him.

The source said there had been no similar incidents at the Raphael, but that a similar method had been used in robberies in South Africa to obtain details such as bank card PIN numbers.

"It's a method people use to try and get personal information from someone," the source said.

Police have refused to divulge whether anything was stolen from Starkey's room, but are rumoured to be studying his laptop.

They are also inspecting CCTV footage which shows Starkey entering with his guest, and are thought to be confident that they know the suspect's identity but are keen to keep the case under wraps until an arrest is made.

"The police have an idea from the footage who they're looking for but they need to tread carefully and not scare the suspect away, people can go deeper underground if they think they are being looked for," the source said.

The Raphael Penthouse Suites, where Starkey was staying, are monitored by security guards 24 hours a day and guarantee "tight, highly effective, and extremely efficient security controls".

The complex's David Stroud, speaking on behalf of owners Legacy Hotels, told the Sydney Morning Herald there had been no breach of security and that their tenant had invited his guest to the private flat.

He added: "We are not in the habit of presuming to tell occupants who they should or should not have visit them."

South African Police spokesman Lungelo Dlamini had initially said investigators had not determined a list of suspects nor a motive for the killing and only revealed Australian-born Starkey, was not sexually assaulted during the attack.

A paramedic told another financial services worker the body showed signs of brutal injuries, including burns and strangulation.

Starkey, who graduated from Macquarie University and was reportedly engaged to be wed, has worked for several financial consultancy firms including Goldman Sachs, Ernst and Young and JP Morgan.

The dual Australian-British citizen travelled to South Africa for work with his current employer, banking management firm Catalyst, the Sydney Morning Herald reported.

They have offered condolences to Starkey's family, who will bury him at Macquarie Park cemetery, in Sydney's north, once his body is returned to Australia.

The Department of Foreign Affairs and Trade told the Sydney Morning Herald the slain banker's family were being supported by the British consular.

His devastated family released a statement yesterday.

It read: "Words cannot describe how devastated we are.

"James lived life to the full and certainly had everything to live for, having recently become engaged and planning to return to settle in Australia in the near future."