Johannesburg - Flowers, teddy bears, candles and messages of condolences lined the front of a flat where the body of a four-year-old was found hours earlier, allegedly murdered by her uncle who initially reported her missing, setting off an intensive search.
The murder of Jasmin Pretorius sparked outrage on social media sites, with many calling for the death penalty to be reinstated for merciless child rapists and killers.
The man who allegedly initiated the search for the pre-schooler soon after she “disappeared” early on Saturday, led police, Pink Ladies, residents and other search volunteers on a wild goose chase for hours, knowing her little body was squashed in under his bed.
On Sunday, the girl’s mother Sasha Lee Bam – still severely traumatised after hearing of her daughter’s horrific death – could barely speak. “I just want justice for Jasmin. My little angel has touched the world. Everyone must know her story so this can stop happening to innocent babies,” the six-months pregnant mother said, trying to remain calm as she wept softly.
Jasmin and her older sister, six, were visiting their father Morné Pretorius for the weekend when a man they trusted and loved, but who had a history of drug abuse, allegedly killed her.
The children had been left in the care of their grandmother, uncle and another man believed to be his boyfriend, by their father who apparently went out with his girlfriend.
The man believed to be the boyfriend of the uncle sent a BBM at about 7am on Saturday, asking for assistance in finding the little girl who was last seen in a pink Barbie pyjama top and black shorts.
According to a source, the boyfriend had returned home from work to discover that Jasmin was “missing”. Morné returned home after he was called with the distressing news.
The uncle allegedly claimed he had no knowledge of where the girl was, neither did the grandmother.
The girl’s mother confirmed to the Pretoria News that Jasmin had slept in her father’s bed alone on Friday evening while her older daughter slept with her grandmother. When morning broke Jasmin was not in the bed in the Suenet Flats in Voortrekker Street, Brakpan.
“I got the call just after 8am and they said she’d been missing since 6am. No one could tell me anything concrete and nothing made sense.
“I rushed over there and police, community members and other search volunteers were already looking for her. I joined in the search. Later that evening he confessed and I just broke down,” Bam said.
A source confirmed to the Pretoria News that the uncle cracked under intense police questioning.
“He first told police that he had sold the girl to Nigerian drug dealers for drugs, but after further police examination he again changed his story. All the while hundreds of people and police were out looking into every possible lead to find Jasmin,” a source close to the investigation said.
The uncle then allegedly confessed to strangling the toddler and then stuffing her body under his bed.
The suspect’s boyfriend later sent out another BBM calling for the search to end, confirming that Jasmin “was found dead under my boyfriend’s bed”.
Bam’s father Colin Bam, who was at the scene when news broke of the gruesome discovery, was not allowed to see his granddaughter’s body. “The police refused to let me go in. They told me it was better not to see her in that state and rather remember her as she was.
“I can’t believe someone could do this to an innocent child,” he said.
The family will go to the mortuary on Monday morning to identify the body while the suspect is expected to appear in the Brakpan Magistrate's Court.
“We have received overwhelming support from literally across the world. I don’t know who started the Facebook page for Jasmin but I’m so grateful. All supporters of Jasmin will be in court tomorrow (on Monday), wearing pink and opposing bail for the man who took my child’s life,” Bam said.
Meanwhile, the Minister for Women, Children and People with Disabilities, Lulu Xingwana, said she was shocked by the murder.
Her spokesperson, Motalatale Modiba said the minister is calling on citizens to be more vigilant about who they leave their children with.
Police confirmed the arrest of a “relative of the father” for the murder and said they could not rule out the possibility of further charges or arrests.
Just a month ago, the country was outraged over the rape of the then six-week-old Baby Lerato, who survived.
The baby was taken from her mother’s bedroom and raped in a nearby shack in the township of Galeshewe, Kimberley. The accused in the matter was also her uncle.
It is alleged that the uncle took Baby Lerato out of the bedroom through the window while she was sleeping.
She has since undergone extensive emergency surgery to repair the injuries that she suffered during the attack and would need to undergo nine more operations.
The 24-year-old uncle, who is in custody, is expected to appear again in the Kimberley Magistrate’s Court on January 8.