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A baby killer is believed to be hiding in Mpumalanga, say police and a private investigator who have been hunting him for two months.
They have come close to catching him at times, but he has always managed to give them the slip.
Now Rita Botes, the mother of Wiehan, the five-month-old boy he allegedly strangled, wants the public’s help in catching him. “If this man can kill my baby, what else is he capable of doing?” she told The Star.
Her son’s body was discovered on May 23, under a bed at a daycare centre in Delmas. The owner of the centre, Magrietha de Goede, was also found strangled.
A day after the murders, private investigator Mike Bolhuis offered his services to the Botes family free of charge. Within hours, police and Bolhuis believed they had identified a suspect. The search was on for a man they think is hiding and moving across a large area of Mpumalanga.
“We have had sightings of him in Daveyton, Witbank and the most recent was in the Groblersdal area,” said Bolhuis.
Once police tracked the suspect to an informal settlement in Mpumalanga, but he seemed to sense something was up and escaped. Shortly after that raid, police apprehended three men.
Fernandos Maritse, 27, Enock Mbele, 44, and Lazarus Mabhena, 54, were arrested after police found De Goede’s jewellery and a cellphone in their possession. They appeared in the Delmas Magistrate’s Court and last week were released on R1 000 bail each after murder charges were withdrawn. They still face a charge of theft.
Bolhuis believes that the three bought the stolen property from the killer, who is thought to be travelling between and hiding in initiation schools.
Police raided one initiation school, but learnt the suspect had been chased away when it was discovered that he was suspected of killing a baby.
On the day of the murder, Botes came close to finding her baby’s body. She had enrolled Wiehan in the daycare centre two weeks earlier, and had phoned every day at about 11am.
But on the day of the murder she got no reply, so she drove to the centre. It was locked, except for the front gate.
“I thought Magrietha might have had a stroke or heart attack,” Botes said. She broke a window and climbed in.
In the house she found the other child that De Goede looked after, an 18-month-old girl, who began crying when she heard Botes calling.
Botes searched the house, looking for her son. Not finding anything, she drove to hospitals and doctors in the area and phoned the police. While searching the house, police found Wiehan under a bed in the main bedroom.
De Goede’s body was discovered outside the house rolled in a carpet.
“I think what happened was that Wiehan started crying, because it probably happened at the time he gets fed,” said Botes. “The man then strangled him to stop him crying.”
Mpumalanga police spokesman Leonard Hlathi confirmed that police were hunting a suspect who was still at large, but said no arrest warrant had been issued.
Police and Bolhuis want to speak to Themba Ephraim Mahlangu, De Goede’s gardener, who they believe has information regarding the case. Bolhuis is offering a reward for any information that leads to solving the crime.
Bolhuis can be contacted at 082 447 6116 or police detective Captain Manie van Zyl at 082 782 3102.