'It's my daughter' - mom after body found in Cape Town river, 2 weeks after child fell into canal

Abieda Paulse.
Abieda Paulse.
Facebook/Cape Flats Stories
  • Almost two weeks ago, Abieda Paulse was swept away after falling into the Vygieskraal canal in Athlone.
  • A body was found in the Liesbeek River on Monday.
  • Her mother Malikah believes it is her daughter, although DNA testing is still to be conducted.

Malikah Paulse remembers clearly what her daughter Abieda had been wearing that fateful, cold day she was swept into the canal near their Cape Town home – her blue gum boots, a pair of jeans and her green rain coat.

This is what the little girl found in the Liesbeek River on Monday had been wearing, the heartbroken mom told News24.

"The police explained to me that DNA testing would be best to identify her because she is unrecognisable," Paulse said.

"It’s not something I am looking forward to."

ALSO READ | Girl, 8, missing after falling into canal in Cape Town

It's been almost two weeks since Abieda was swept away after falling into the nearby Vygieskraal canal while playing with her friends on 9 July.

Resident Yusuf Kiriboto had jumped in to try and save her.

"He didn't make it back out," Paulse said.

A body was found on Tuesday afternoon in the canal in Bokmakierie, not far from where Kiriboto had jumped in.

Police spokesperson Captain FC Van Wyk said an inquest docket had been opened after the unidentified body was discovered.

"A post-mortem will be conducted to determine the cause of death and identity."

Locals who had taken part in the search for Abieda and Kiriboto were, however, convinced that the remains were that of the little girl and their heroic neighbour.

Abieda and her friends had been playing near the canal, not far from their homes.

After the two disappeared beneath the water, police divers and rescue services had searched the scene and the surrounds amid adverse weather conditions.

No trace of either had been found.

Malikah was convinced the child retrieved from the Liesbeek River on Monday was her daughter.

"I accept it," she said.

"The last two weeks have been hard. I couldn't eat or sleep. The fact that she hadn't been found, that we were still looking for her body, that kept me awake. Ek voel nou 'n bietjie peace [I now have some peace]."

Tuesday was also Abieda's father Michael's birthday.

But there was nothing for them to celebrate, his mother Elizabeth Steenkamp told News24.

"She is gone, and we are sad," the ouma said.

"I had such a soft spot for her. Everyone used to say she was the image of me when I was her age. She was my girl."

She would miss Abieda’s bad attempts at giving her a fright, Steenkamp laughed.

"That child, I would see her coming a mile away, but would act shocked just to make her smile."

Malikah said her daughter was a chatterbox, always up to play.

"And she would sing, all the time. When I hear music, I remember how she would tell her friends, 'Kom, kom, ons gaan nou dans! Daar is my number!' [Come, come, we're going to dance now. That is my song!] She loved that."

Once officially identified, Abieda would be buried in accordance with Muslim burial rites, Malikah said.

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