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Johannesburg - The hunt is on for a suspected serial killer who raped and brutally murdered two girls before dumping their bodies in a communal toilet in Diepsloot, north of Joburg.
Community outrage boiled over into violent protests as residents claimed police had not done enough, after it emerged that these murders have been linked to the abduction and murder of a five-year-old girl just more than a month ago.
On Tuesday night, residents barricaded roads and burnt tyres. Foreign-owned shops were looted and journalists attacked.
The bodies of two-year-old Yonelisa Mali and three-year-old Zandile Mali, who are cousins, were found in a communal toilet in Extension 1 early on Tuesday morning. The girls had been missing since Saturday.
“They were brutally murdered… I can’t understand how a human being can do this,” said Major-General Oswald Reddy, the Honeydew cluster commander.
The bodies were found less than 100m from the home in which five-year-old Anelise Mkhondo was snatched last month.
Her body was found a few days later in a rubbish heap nearby. No arrest had been made in connection with her murder by 4pm yesterday.
“We suspect that it might be a serial killer involved, but it’s too early to say,” said Reddy.
However, he admitted that the two dockets from the incidents had been linked and said it appeared as though the two girls found yesterday had been raped.
“At this stage we suspect that is the case,” Reddy said.
The two cousins went missing from outside their home while playing with friends on Saturday and were last seen in the company of a man in a yellow T-shirt, Reddy said.
He reportedly carried one of the girls while the other walked next to him, holding his hand.
Zandile’s mother Sisanda was too traumatised to say much.
“She was playing. I was at the shop,” she said, speaking of the last time she saw her daughter.
Sisanda’s older sister Thokozani, Yonelisa’s mother, was informed by the police that her daughter and niece were murdered only at about midday on Tuesday, she said.
Outside, a doll with just one arm and tattered hair lay on the ground, where the girls were most likely snatched.
Gauteng Premier Nomvula Mokonyane visited the family on Tuesday. She asked residents to remain calm and said mob justice would not be tolerated.
A man who saw the children before the police arrived said the bodies looked contorted and were bleeding in several places.
Police did not confirm this, but said it appeared they had been mutilated.
Residents spoke of their fear following the murders, while others vented their anger in a protest.
“That’s why I’m crying, this is not the right place to bring up a child,” said Diepsloot resident and mother-of-two Masechaba Tsimo. “I’m a single parent… I’m very scared.”
Another mother said she would be even more protective of her three-year-old daughter from now on. “Even when I go to the bathroom now I will take her with me.”
On Tuesday afternoon, residents ransacked a shack they said belonged to a suspect in the murders. They claimed he ran away.
Lizzy Chauke, deputy chairwoman of the SA National Civic Organisation in the area, said they found blankets with bloodstains, nappies and clothes belonging to the children in the shack.
The passport of a foreign national was also found, she said.
A forensic team was sent to the shack to sift for clues, police said.