Police searched the home of a suspect in the disappearance of Keitumetse Magwadibane. The little girl disappeared almost a year ago. Picture: Soraya Crowie/ANA pictures
Kimberley – Almost a year after the disappearance of five-year-old Keitumetse Magwadibane, a Phuthanang man, Eddie Thompson, appeared in the Galeshewe Magistrate’s Court on a charge of kidnapping in connection with the matter.

Keitumetse went missing more than 11 months ago on July 14, 2016 after she went to a local tuck shop with a friend. She has still not been found.

Five people, one of whom was believed to be a sangoma, were last year arrested in connection with the matter.

The charges against the five suspects were, however, dropped and they were released in November last year after the State could not positively link them to the crime.

Thompson, 35, who lives one street away from the Magwadibane’s home, took to the stand on Thursday and repeatedly told the court that he was not guilty.

He said that he would run his own defence as he had nothing to do with the matter.

Keitumetse Magwadibane disappeared almost a year ago. Picture: Supplied

“I did not do it. I want to speak for myself as I am not guilty. I did not do it,” Thompson said.

The magistrate advised the accused to appoint an attorney.

The State meanwhile told the court that clothing items with blood splatters on them were found at the accused’s home and were sent for DNA analysis.

The clothing was confiscated after a police investigation team searched Thompson’s shanty last week Tuesday.

Officials on the scene remained tight-lipped when residents in the area enquired about the search of the shanty.

Some residents and neighbours speculated that the owner of the house had been murdered, not knowing that he was in custody at the time.

“The owner of the house is staying in the shanty and rented the house to another man and his wife. Maybe the couple killed the man so they could get his house? The owner has not been home nor have we seen him these past days,” said one of the neighbours.

Another neighbour even became angry with the police, saying that police officials should inform them whether their lives were in danger.

“The police are searching the house but they are not telling us why. We have the right to know if we are staying next to murderers. Who knows whether those who killed will return and harm us we need to know how to protect ourselves.”

Another rumour that police officials had found rhino horn inside the shack also made the rounds.

The parents of Keitumetse, Frank and Margaret Magwadibane, who were amongst the crowd at the time, were also unaware that the search was linked to their child.

Frank, who attended Thompson’s court appearance on Thursday, said that he could not believe it when he found out that the accused was arrested in connection with Keitumetse’s disappearance.

“This man has been staying here with us for years. I cannot believe that he is now a suspect in the case. We did not know at the time of the search that police were investigating him. We thought, like everyone in the community, that he was harmed. We never suspected that he could have something to do with the disappearance of my child, but we will await the outcome of the investigations to see how he is linked to the case,” said Frank.

He added that the family had lost hope and thought that the matter was a cold case.

“We were under the impression that the matter was forgotten. We did not know that the police were still investigating the case after the release of the five suspects last year. We hope those responsible will be brought to book.”

Frank said that the family is still struggling to come to terms with the matter.

“Keitumetse’s disappearance is a bitter pill to swallow. It has been giving us sleepless nights as we still do not have any indication of where she is or what happened to her. We will never find peace until we know what happened to her. As a parent, one cannot just carry on with life not knowing where your child is.”

Police spokesperson, Lieutenant-Colonel Dimakatso Mooi, confirmed the arrest of the suspect.

“On June 7, police followed up on information and a 35-year-old man was arrested for questioning in regard to an abduction case. He appeared in court and the case was remanded, awaiting forensic results. The police investigation continues,” said Mooi.

The case was postponed for further investigation.

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