Johannesburg - Tempers flared at the Brakpan Magistrate’s Court on Monday when a 23-year-old man appeared on charges of raping and killing his four-year-old niece.
“Give him to us! Give him to us,” the angry crowd of Brakpan residents shouted at police officers.
The crush of people had just seen a police van they believed was transporting the man accused of the rape and murder of Jasmin Lee Pretorius from the court.
“Give him bail, give him bail,” the throng shouted, rattling the court’s gate in anger.
Little Jasmin and her older sister had been visiting their father, Morné Pretorius, this past weekend.
She was found murdered on Sunday after she was reported missing the day before.
The children had been left in the care of their grandmother, their uncle and his boyfriend on Friday night, while their father went out with his girlfriend.
The uncle – who had initially denied knowing what happened to Jasmin – allegedly confessed to strangling the child and stuffing her body under his bed.
On Monday, the mob threw rocks at the vehicle as stout men yanked open the back door of the van. But the accused wasn’t inside the vehicle.
Moments before the chaos erupted, the accused had walked slowly up the dock, head bowed, wearing a grey sweater with what appeared to be blood spots on the back.
The man cannot be named as he has not pleaded.
Asked by the magistrate about his representation, the accused looked down in silence before murmuring “I don’t know”.
He bore scars on his face and, when asked how he sustained his injuries, he told the court: “I fell.”
Before the proceedings, Jasmin’s mother Sasha Lee Bam brushed Morné’s arm and gently asked: “Are you okay?”
The pair – who were surrounded by protective relatives – declined to comment, still too distraught and overwhelmed.
The case was adjourned until January 7 for the accused to decide on his representation and for further police investigations.
Outside court, when the crowd couldn’t get their hands on the accused man, they turned their anger on the family, chasing them down the streets, shouting: “Waar was die ouma? (where was the grandmother?).
“Where was the granny? Your grandchild is your everything; she (grandmother) knows everything!” Lydia de Bruin said as she rushed behind Jasmin’s parents.
“I’ve got children, God knows, I’d kill anyone who tried to hurt them,” Natasha van der Merwe said, hurling insults at the family.
Many in the crowd wore pink in tribute to Jasmin, a gesture organised by The Pink Ladies, an NGO for missing children that initiated the search for Jasmin after she was reported missing.
The organisation distributed flyers across Brakpan. Jasmin was wearing a pink long-sleeve shirt on the night she was killed.
The Pink Ladies was founded in February 2007, a few days after Sheldean Human, 7, disappeared from her Pretoria home on February 18 of that year. Her body was found in a stormwater drain two weeks later.
The incident prompted a group of mostly women to come together to lend support to the child’s family, but also helped with the search in the days leading up to the discovery.
Sheldean was wearing a pink top at the time of her abduction, so the women called themselves The Pink Ladies in solidarity. Now, years later, the volunteer base has grown to hundreds of women and men from all provinces who circulate flyers for missing children and adults.