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Johannesburg - His small eyes were swollen and bruised. The rest of his face was stained with blood, some of it still dripping from his mouth. He had been brutalised before, but this time the beating proved fatal.
When his abuser(s) realised that Mpho’s* resilience had finally worn out, they dressed him in a navy-blue and white striped tracksuit and matching takkies and dumped his body.
The body of the little boy, who was believed to be aged between four and six, was discovered in an open field in Hlongwane Section, Katlehong, in Ekurhuleni, on August 17.
A woman walking home at about 9pm came across the body and called the police.
“I have never seen such a horrible thing in my life,” said investigating officer Constable John Lekalakala.
On Thursday it will be two months since the body was found. There have been no leads to his identity.
No one has come forward to claim the boy and he does not appear to be on the national database for missing children.
The police took Mpho’s fingerprints to the Department of Home Affairs, but nothing came up.
“We thought that maybe we would find a name from the grant system, but that didn’t work either,” said Lekalakala.
Last Thursday, the police received a reconstructed image of Mpho from the Forensic Science Laboratory.
His was a face built from the eyes of other children and brought back to life by a forensic artist.
It took SAPS senior forensic analyst Lieutenant Edward van der Westhuizen three days to reconstruct the face of the little boy.
The process began when he was handed post-mortem photographs of the child taken at the mortuary, but these, he said, couldn’t help him with the reconstruction, so he had to turn to pictures taken at the crime scene.
“Decomposition and swelling on the boy’s face made it difficult,” said Van der Westhuizen, who is a member of the SAPS’s Victim Identification Centre.
It meant that he had to work on a profile that wasn’t the usual face.
Using a photo-editing programme, Van der Westhuizen cleared the blemishes on the child’s face, but at the same time leaving scarring around the boy’s neck, as this - it is believed - would be an identifying feature.
Swelling also made it difficult for Van der Westhuizen to create a likeness of the boy’s eyes. He turned to a database of photographs of children’s eyes from the University of Pretoria.
The eyes needed to sit right, which he said proved difficult. But, in the end, Van der Westhuizen hopes he has done enough to trigger a response.
“That it is enough to create a question, for someone to perhaps realise they haven’t seen their sister’s child.”
The victim identification unit had to reconstruct the face without all the bruising so he could be identified,” said Warrant Officer Polane Mokadi.
The pictures taken from the scene were too gruesome to be shown to the public.
The wounds on his body indicated physical abuse.
“He had old wounds as well, scars all over his body,” said Lekalakala.
The boy’s abdomen had burn marks, possibly from cigarette burns and hot water.
He also had a previous rib fracture that was still healing.
Mokadi said there was no evidence of sexual abuse.
The post-mortem report revealed that Mpho had died from a blunt-force head injury.
The police are urging anyone with any information on the boy to come forward or to contact Warrant Officer Mokadi on 083 551 5057 or 011 617 3623. Alternatively, an anonymous call can be made to Crime Stop on 086 001 10111.
* Not his real name.