Justice for Nombuso?

2008-11-07 00:00

Family members of nine-year-old Nombuso Nhlangulela, whose rape and murder in March this year sent shock waves through the community, can finally hope for justice in the case.

Intensive police work by members of the Pietermaritzburg organised crime unit, led by Inspectors Derek Coetzee and Mebra Nzimande, resulted in the arrest yesterday of a Howick West man — Faizel Mohamed Sayed (35) of Valleyview Road — for Nombuso’s kidnapping, rape and murder.

Sayed has been in custody since June this year and is already facing charges in connection with a string of alleged rapes and sexual assaults.

He was charged in the Pietermaritzburg Magistrate’s Court yesterday when he appeared briefly before magistrate Paul van Dongen.

Weekend Witness has learned that Sayed was sentenced to 30 years’ imprisonment in 1995 for his involvement in a car theft syndicate, and was released on parole last year. Since his arrest on the current charges his parole has been withdrawn.

The case against him in respect of little Nombuso — who was held prisoner and sexually molested for four days before she was killed on the morning of March 3 — is believed to be strong, with his DNA allegedly having been linked to the offences.

Sayed was arrested in June in connection with four counts of rape and one of sexual assault of the same woman on June 16, as well as a charge that he robbed the victim of a cellphone and jersey.

The young woman allegedly recognised him when she saw him in town, alerted the police and pointed him out as her attacker.

Subsequent police inquiries revealed that a number of rapes had occurred involving a similar modus operandi in the preceding months.

Some victims were taken by vehicle to isolated places where they were attacked, or were lured by promises such as the offer of jobs to accompany their assailant.

The victims were threatened at knifepoint.

Inspector Leonie Hopkins of the family violence and sexual offences unit was given the case to work on, and she successfully opposed an application by Sayed to get bail.

Coetzee and his team, meanwhile, had begun to suspect Sayed’s possible involvement in Nombuso’s rape and murder due to certain similarities in the cases, and began to liaise closely with Hopkins and her team. They also noted that Sayed lived close to where Nombuso was abducted.

The investigations led to samples of Sayed’s blood being sent away for DNA analysis.

Nombuso was the youngest of the alleged victims, whose ages range up to 21 years.

Sayed was yesterday remanded in custody until January 16.

Van Dongen was told that the docket has been referred to an advocate in the Office of the Director of Public Prosecutions in KZN who is drafting an indictment.

So far the provisional charge sheet in the magistrate’s court reflects a total of 17 charges, including those relating to Nombuso. Some of the victims were allegedly assaulted more than once.

The rapes and sexual assaults — with the exception of the kidnap, rape and murder of Nombuso between February 28 and March 3 — all allegedly occurred between April and June this year.

• On April 26 near Forest Hill Primary, Pietermaritzburg, he allegedly raped a 15-year-old girl.

• On April 28 he is charged with the rape of a 17-year-old girl at Forest Hill Primary.

• On May 11 he is charged with assault and rape of a 13-year-old behind M.L. Sultan Technikon, Pietermaritzburg.

• On May 19 he allegedly raped and assaulted a 21-year-old woman in the vicinity of Forest Hill Primary.

• On May 23, also at Forest Hill Primary, he allegedly raped an 18-year-old woman.

• On June 7 he allegedly raped a 14-year-old near ML Sultan.

• On June 7 he allegedly raped a 21-year-old woman near the N3.

• On June 21 near the railway line and Forest Hill he allegedly raped a 17-year-old.

• On June 16 he is alleged to have raped a young woman near Forest Hill, to have sexually assaulted her and robbed her of a cellphone and a jersey.

Police spokesman Senior Superintendent Henry Budhram confirmed yesterday that police did complete an inquiry into the alleged negligence of police officers at Howick who had failed to respond in time to the missing person report filed by Nombuso’s father, Themba.

He said disciplinary action has been taken against the members concerned, but did not elaborate as to what those steps were.

When Nombuso’s tortured body was recovered tied to a tree behind the Pick n Pay supermarket complex in Howick, the little girl was dressed in a distinctive blouse, which had been pulled over her school uniform.

She reportedly died of suffocation, caused by a plastic bag pulled over her head, within six hours of her body being found.

The grade four pupil from Howick West Primary School disappeared on Thursday, February 28.

She was last seen alive at the local high school not far away, waiting for her sister.

Anyone with information that could assist police inquiries into any of the alleged offences is urged to contact Inspector Hopkins at 072 603 4020 or Inspector Coetzee on 082 556 1370.

ingrido@witness.co.za

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