Johannesburg - Five Eldorado Park children are now without a mother after a woman’s body was found on the grounds of a local school, adjacent to a Catholic church.
Christell Pienaar’s bruised, battered and half-undressed corpse was discovered on Wednesday in the long grass of the unkempt cricket field of Silver Oaks Secondary School.
A pedestrian walking in the small passage between the school and the church noticed the body at about 8am on Wednesday.
Police were summoned immediately, blocking off the passage, where a gap in the fence had given Pienaar’s killers – and possibly her rapists – access to the school grounds.
The large majority of her family, who lived with 30-year-old Pienaar less than a kilometre away from the school, were gathered at the tape cordoning off the scene, some in tears, others staring forlornly at the ground.
The air was filled with the smell of trash strewn throughout the tight passage, which residents have said remained a dangerous spot for pedestrians, as it was not visible to the nearby homes.
Gauteng Social Development Department head Shoki Tshabalala arrived on the scene shortly afterwards, bringing the family onto the crime scene after police had finished their investigation.
Police spokesman Warrant Officer Kay Makhubela said it appeared that Pienaar had been stabbed in the chest and throat.
Makhubela said forensics would have to determine whether Pienaar had been raped. Her pants had been pulled down.
Residents gathered at the scene said the violence in the area had to come to an end, as this was just one in a string of crimes against women in recent months.
Five men, one of whom is believed to be Pienaar’s close friend, were taken in for questioning on Wednesday morning.
“People do these things and think they won’t be seen, but at the end of the day you will be found,” said Makhubela.
Sources close to the investigation said Pienaar was last seen late on Tuesday night getting into a car with a male friend.
That five men were taken in for questioning will not bring much solace to Pienaar’s family.
Her biological father, Norman de Bruyn, said he would be looking after his daughter’s five young children, but he and his wife were unemployed.
He said his daughter was a person who always laughed, even when times were at their toughest.
Tshabalala told The Star her department would ensure the grandchildren were clothed and fed, and that psychological counselling was provided to all of Pienaar’s family.
She has urged the community to use the newly launched bus system that allows young people and other residents who need counselling to be transported to nearby community centres.
“All of us must find ways to pull together to protect our kids,” said Tshabalala. “We condemn this act and encourage our police to always act as swiftly as they did.”
Tshabalala added that the reason she had rushed to the scene was because of the gender violence that plagues the area.
Gauteng Premier Nomvula Mokonyane condemned what she called Pienaar’s “barbaric murder and rape”.
Christell Pienaar’s murder is just one of a string of gruesome deaths of young women in the Eldorado Park area.
* December 2012: Michaela Manneson was murdered by her brother-in-law, Jonathan Maharla. George Barquala held a cloth doused in thinners over her nose. Maharla then strangled the teenager while Barquala held a plastic bag over her head. They took her body to the Nancefield industrial area in Eldorado Park, where they stacked tyres on top of her and set them alight.
* April 2013: In the neighbouring suburb of Klipspruit West, Tracey-Lee Martins was raped and strangled as she lay in her bed by two men who knew her.
* November 2013: In what appeared to be a revenge killing for the murder of Michaela Manneson, Jonathan Maharla’s sister Sandy, 18, was found in the veld in Eldorado Park.
* January 2014: A woman was found wrapped in a blanket and plastic at Nancefield Industries in Eldorado Park.