Durban - Police made a gruesome discovery at the site of the collapsed Tongaat mall on Monday when they found a decomposing body on top of the heap of rubble that had been untouched for more than a month.
But they say this was not a victim of the November 19 tragedy, in which two people died and several were injured when a massive concrete slab came down on workers who were building the mall.
A source close to the investigation said the man found on Monday was a suspected robber who had fled to the site to escape from the authorities.
It is alleged that he robbed a woman of her necklace outside a nearby shop. Security guards guarding the construction site saw what happened and chased him, but he disappeared on to the collapsed site.
The cause of his death had not yet been established on Monday and the authorities were waiting for the results of a post-mortem, but it is believed the man fell from one of the exposed floors of the half-finished mall.
Except for security guards, the site is empty, and a 2m high fence, with signs prohibiting entry, surrounds it.
“No one is allowed on to the site, so the security guards did not follow the man,” the source said, “They thought he had got away; they had no idea he was still there.”
His body went undiscovered for about two weeks. During this time it was exposed to the heat and other elements.
A police search and rescue team was sent in to recover the body.
Police spokesman Jay Naicker said a passer-by became aware of the body. It was understood it was because he became aware of the strong smell.
An inquest docket had been opened and police were investigating the circumstances of the incident, he said.
Search and rescue efforts at the site were called off last month and, when asked if police thought there could be any more bodies buried under the rubble, Naicker was adamant there were not.
Recently the eThekwini Municipality filed a contempt-of-court application against property developer Ravi Jagadasan whose company, Rectangle Property, was building the mall.
He allegedly ignored several court orders to stop construction and the municipality has called for him to be jailed or fined.
Jagadasan is expected to oppose the application.