Durban - Emotions ran high at the Durban Magistrate’s Court on Wednesday as the man accused of kidnapping Miguel Louw, 10, was granted bail.
Miguel has not been found.
Mohammed Ebrahim, who the court ruled can be named, was granted R2500 bail - much to the ire of Miguel’s family and community members, who packed the courtroom.
As the 43-year-old made his way back to the holding cells, Miguel’s father, Kirk Louw, grabbed a jacket and hit Ebrahim with it.
Earlier, as it became clear he would be granted bail, Miguel’s mother, Raylene Louw, became so upset, she left court, shouting at him: “You took my child, I want my child, see you on the outside.”
These were just some of the outbursts that magistrate Mohamed Motala had to deal with during the hearing, despite his numerous calls for order in the courtroom.
The tense atmosphere was made more evident when at one point, Ebrahim’s defence attorney, Chris Gounden, stood up and said he thought he had heard a gun being cocked.
In his application, which Gounden read to the court, Ebrahim said the State’s case against him was circumstantial. He said he has no previous convictions or pending cases.
He maintained that he last saw Miguel when he boarded a taxi after buying him something to eat at KFC. He argued that had he taken Miguel, the taxi driver or other commuters would have noticed the child’s discomfort and Miguel - not used to going anywhere with him - would have protested.
State prosecutor Calvin Govender said Ebrahim had Raylene’s original ID as well as Miguel and his sister’s birth certificates.
But Ebrahim said he had just picked these up at Raylene’s home on the day of Miguel’s disappearance.
He claimed that they had fallen out of a jacket of someone visiting the house and he picked them up and put them in his pocket for safekeeping with the intention of giving them back.
They were found in his pocket when he was eventually arrested three days after Miguel’s disappearance.
Police were able to finally locate him as he told his employer where he was.
Govender also argued that Miguel was a child and since Ebrahim was known to him, may not have been alarmed enough to speak out.
After court, Miguel’s aunt, Tasmin dos Santos, said Ebrahim was his sister’s former colleague and had been employed to do maintenance around the house.
For the duration of this work, he stayed at the house with Raylene and Miguel but the work had ended on the day Miguel was last seen.
Govender argued that prior to his arrest Ebrahim had been elusive and had misled police by telling them he was in Pietermaritzburg, Pinetown and Port Shepstone, when - according to his cellphone records - he was in the Durban CBD all along.
Granting Ebrahim bail, Motala said the circumstances under which Ebrahim had come to be arrested - that he was the last to be seen with Miguel - was not a compelling reason enough for him to be kept in custody.
Motala said while Ebrahim would have to prove at trial what he was doing with Miguel on that fateful day, that fact did not go as far as providing the State with a strong case for kidnapping.
Motala, who stressed that he was not saying Ebrahim was guilty, again pleaded with the accused to inform the investigating officer or his attorney if he had any information about Miguel’s whereabouts.
In terms of his bail conditions, Ebrahim is to report to the Phoenix police station three days a week, and was cautioned for his “own safety” not go to Sydenham unless he was accompanied by the investigating officer.
Motala took great pains to explain the court process, urging the public in the gallery to allow the law to take its course.
Ebrahim is due back in court on October 17.
Miguel Louw's aunt Tasmin dos Santos reacting to the man accused of his kidnapping getting bail.