A police team has been recognised for cracking the investigation into the disappearance of UCT student Uyinene Mrwetyana and tracking down her rapist and killer, Luyanda Botha.
Police Minister Bheki Cele handed over a Ministry Award to Western Cape detectives head Brigadier Vela Jerome Cele at the 7th SA Police Service National Excellence Awards in Port Elizabeth on Sunday.
Last November, Botha, 42, was sentenced to life in prison after he pleaded guilty to raping and killing Mrwetyana on August 24, last year.
In terms of the plea and sentencing agreement, the former post office worker will not be eligible for parole for 25 years.
When the first-year student went missing in August, the case was assigned to Constable Goodwill Nkonki and he worked closely with Sergeant Lutchmee Chetty.
They established that Mrwetyana visited the Clareinch Post Office at around 14:00 on August 24 and that she was last seen by Botha, who booked off sick.
Dumped her body
Botha later admitted that he arranged to be alone with Mrwetyana in the locked post office that day by telling her a parcel was ready for collection.
When she did not respond to his sexual advances, he used a 2kg weight - used to weigh the packages received at the post office - to bludgeon her.
The next day, he put her body in a large post bag in his car. At a field in Lingelethu West, Khayelitsha, he dumped her body in a shallow hole before dousing it with petrol and setting it alight.
When the matter was reported to Claremont police, investigating officer Captain Craig Phillips and other detectives worked with Nkonki to figure out what had happened.
"They started with a combined effort on tracing the missing student's whereabouts by using technology, visiting a number of CCTV cameras on foot and making further enquiries," a police statement read.
Brigadier VJ Cele with Police Minister Bheki Cele (Supplied by SAPS)
"Constable Nkonki also communicated with surrounding metropole stations, his colleagues, other stations, visiting surrounding mortuaries until he learnt that a decomposed burnt body was found in Lingelethu-West and was at the Tygerberg Mortuary."
Nkonki and Phillips obtained blood from Mrwetyana's relatives for DNA comparison.
Cele formed a provincial team to assist the Claremont detectives task team and Botha became the primary suspect. The hunt for him began.
While driving around on August 29, a police officer spotted Botha and detained him for questioning.
Botha later pointed out where he had dumped the teen's body and he confessed.
"This incident became prominent and received international and national media coverage due to the violent nature thereof," the police said.
"The combined efforts of all the members involved in the initial team, the detective team and provincial team ensured the solving of the case which had a positive impact on Claremont SAPS and the members."