Missing toddler found in a box

2011-07-11 00:00

THE search for a Slangspruit toddler who went missing in May had a tragic ending on Saturday when his partially decomposed body was found hidden in a box in a neighbour’s house.

The neighbour screamed for help on Saturday at about 3 pm when she went to inspect a box in her outside room that was emitting a rank smell.

Her husband then uncovered the decomposed body of Mcebisi Zondi (3) and immediately called the police.

Neighbours of the Zondis said the police got a confession from a relative of the child on Saturday evening. He apparently told them he had dropped Mcebisi when he was playing with him after he had bathed him on the morning of May 26, the day he disappeared.

The neighbours said the relative — who cannot be named as he has not appeared in court — arrived at the Zondi residence to live there at the beginning of May.

Said a neighbour who did not want to be named, “He used to play with Mcebisi, throwing him up in the air and catching him again. Mcebisi used to cry. But [he] said that he was toughening him up. We used to tell him to stop throwing him in the air by his hands and feet.”

On the day of the tragedy Mcebisi’s stepfather realised after 1 pm that Mcebisi was missing. He asked his neighbour, at whose home the child often played, if she had seen him.

When she said she had not seen the child the search began. The child’s mother was called from the nearby tuckshop where she works.

Thoko Zondi reported her child missing and the police began a frantic search of the neighbourhood and surrounding areas, which yielded no results.

“During the search police asked us to open our fridges and they searched the houses. But I didn’t see them search the home of Mcebisi,” said another neighbour.

According to the neighbour at whose home Mcebisi’s body was found, she had asked to store a box filled with old clothes, wires and an extension cord in the Zondi house at the beginning of the year.

After Mcebisi’s disappearance the Zondis left the area, travelling to KwaSwayimani near Kranskop to seek the assistance of a sangoma in finding their child.

The relative was left alone in the house. The neighbour felt her belongings in the box were not safe and on Thursday last week decided to fetch the box.

The relative helped the neighbour carry the box. The neighbour noticed that it was heavier than she remembered and there was a smell emanating from the box.

She asked why it was so heavy. “He just said it was because of the rain that was coming in from their window. He said the smell might be coming from rats that had invaded their house recently.”

On Friday the neighbour’s children complained about a rank odour coming from the outside room where the box was, and on Saturday her husband asked her to check inside the box to see if there were really dead rats.

“I went inside the room and I could smell a very bad odour. I started taking clothes out of the box. When I was half way the clothes became very sticky until they were solidly stuck to something. At that point I saw part of a head and a little foot with a shoe I recognised as Mcebisi’s,” said the neighbour.

The neighbour said Mcebesi’s mother, Thoko, told her she and her boyfriend could smell the body by the time they left in early June, but the relative said it was dead rats.

They searched the house for the rats, but every time they came close to the box the relative would tell them the odour was not coming from that area. “They even cemented a hole from outside that they thought was the entry point for the rats.”

The neighbour was taken to the Alexandra Road police station for questioning on Saturday afternoon. She said she saw and heard the relative admit to having dropped the child.

Attempts to speak to Mcebisi’s mother were unsuccessful at the time of going to print as she was not at home.

Police spokesperson Captain Thulani Zwane said a case of murder has been opened against the relative.

He is in custody and is expected to appear in the Pietermaritzburg Regional Court today.

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