Family of missing Liyaqat 'Lee' Mentoor still has some hope that he's alive

2019-06-09 16:02
Liyaqat Lee Mentoor went missing in March 16, 2018. (Supplied)

Liyaqat Lee Mentoor went missing in March 16, 2018. (Supplied)

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The family of missing three-year-old Liyaqat 'Lee' Mentoor still has some hope that he is alive.  

Lee, as he is affectionately known, went missing on March 16, 2018. 

Speaking to News24, his aunt and family spokesperson Estelle Delport said: "Until a body is found, we are still hopeful that somebody has him".

But their hope, Delport said, was slowly fading away. "Eighty percent, we feel he is gone [and that] something has happened to him, and the other 20 percent, [since] we haven't found his body yet, we hope he is still there," she said.     

"It is so difficult for the mom, Kaylah. The past few weeks have been hard because it was Mother's Day and it will be his birthday soon," she said. 

As many as 500 children die annually of abuse and neglect, according to the Children's Institute. Crime statistics showed that 985 children were murdered in 2017/2018 and most of the murders took place in the Western Cape.

In 2018, soon after Lee went missing, police arrested Kaylah's ex-boyfriend Onke Mashinini, who was the last person seen with the boy. 

This, after blood was found in Mashinini's parental home in Roodepoort, where he was allegedly babysitting the boy. Mashinini was denied bail and is still in custody.  

"We conducted several searches, unfortunately in vain. There was blood found in the house and the DNA proved that the blood belonged to the child," former station commander of Roodepoort, Major General Sam Manala, told News24.

He said they believed that Lee was killed.  Mashinini faces charges of murder, kidnapping and defeating the ends of justice. 

He is expected to appear in the Gauteng High Court in Johannesburg for pre-trial proceedings on June 25. 

Delport told News24 that Mashinini was still not speaking to anyone and that "no matter what the situation is, we want to know what has happened". 

"We cannot have a memorial without knowing where he is. Kaylah says: 'How can I say goodbye to my son if I don't know if he is gone or not?'. It is very difficult for the mom."

Delport added that the police have been silent about the progress of the case.

"We are faced with a situation where the police are not communicating with us. They are only communicating with the prosecutor. 

"We are always the people who have to follow up with the police to find out if they have found anything," she said.   

One thing Delport remembers about Lee is his smile, she told News24. She said the child's favourite character at the time was Spiderman.

She said it took a while for Lee to warm up to people. Kaylah previously told News24 that Lee "was such an angel when he was a baby. He was quiet, he never cried…You wouldn't even know he was there. That's how quiet he was".

She said Mashinini was "fond" of her son, who started calling him daddy.

"Everywhere we went he (Mashinini) would say: 'This is my son, this is my child.' He would say it with so much pride.

"I knew he wasn't perfect, but I didn’t expect something like this. I was completely shocked," she said. On June 12, it will be Lee's 5th birthday.

The family plans to celebrate with other children at the No More Victims safe house in Eldorado Park. The place houses eight children, from newborn to 14, at a time, she said.

Through the Liyaqat Lee Foundation, which was established last year, they planned to assist the safe house and to "fix it up a bit" on June 16, Delport said.

"We want to assist people who are going through the same experiences we are going through and the same frustrations of dealing with the police. 

"We were lucky to have the Eldorado CPF (community police forum) behind us. The foundation has not really done anything, but we are hoping to get funds and to raise an awareness."

Read more on:    liyaqat mentoor  |  johannesburg  |  crime  |  child abuse
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