Missing girl found murdered

2008-03-06 00:00

RESIDENTS of Merrivale in Howick are shattered by the murder of a nine-year-old schoolgirl whose crumpled body was found tied to a tree in the bushes behind the Pick n Pay supermarket complex on Monday morning.

The postmortem conducted by a district surgeon on Wednesday revealed that Nombuso Nhlangulela was also sexually molested.

The girl’s head was covered with a plastic bag, which might have suffocated her. Her school sock had been shoved into her mouth, which was bound with a lace curtain.

Little Nombuso, a grade four pupil at Howick West Primary, went missing last Thursday. Her father said she was last seen at a local high school not far from her own school, where she was waiting for her sister.

According to a teacher at the high school, she went to a service station about 300 metres from the school, apparently to buy something.

That was the last time anyone saw her. It is about four kilometres from Nombuso’s school to her home, said her father.

Nombuso’s father, Themba Nhlangulela, told The Witness yesterday that he got a call from his family last Thursday between 5.30 pm and 6 pm saying the child had not returned from school.

“I came home and we started to search all over, calling on relatives in Mpophomeni and some school teachers, all to no avail. We then went to report her disappearance to the local police between 9 pm and 10 pm. They said when we had been satisfied she could not be found we must bring her photo and register her as missing person and we left,” he said.

Nhlangulela said the following day they went to her school, hoping Nombuso might appear, as they thought she had perhaps spent the night at a friend’s home, but she never appeared. The teachers did not know where she was either.

“We returned to the police station, but they still couldn’t do anything and just said we needed to provide a photo. All we wanted was for them to act on the little information we had,” he said.

Nhlangulela also spent over R4 000 on three sangomas who said they could bring back the child.

“I was mad then and didn’t know what I was doing because I was so desperate. We continued with the search the whole weekend.

“And on Monday we heard that a child’s body had been found tied to a tree at around 6 am that morning. We went and identified the body,” he said.

Although it was earlier said that the child had been mutilated, this was not so.

Nhlangulela said it appeared the child died on Monday morning because a person who reported a screaming person to the police said she heard a child screaming near where Nombuso was found.

This has led to the belief that she was abducted and held prisoner for four days.

The grief-stricken father said his little girl was fond of reading magazines, watching TV and playing games that children play.

“She was just a bubbly girl and loved her 14-year-old sister. I’m shattered,” said Nhlangulela. He has lodged a formal complaint with the police for failing to assist in finding his child. “They could have done something,” he said.

When The Witness visited the area yesterday, almost the whole suburb of Merrivale had heard about the tragedy.

“Very sad, I don’t where this country is headed to,” said Piet Fourie at a nearby Sasol garage. “I don’t know her, but I know what it must be like for the parents.”

“I heard the news on Tuesday,” said Amelia Pillay from Holiday Road.

Police spokesman Senior Superintendent Henry Budhram confirmed that a murder docket has been opened. He said allegations by Nhlangulela against the police will be investigated. But, he added, the police had circulated the child’s details.

Four years ago, Howick West and Mpophomeni were rocked by mysterious killings and several bodies were found mutilated and dumped in the veld and on river banks.

nathi@witness.co.za

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