Johannesburg - The long grass hides the cross from the road. Plastic flowers that had fallen off lay in the black ash covering the sand.
It was here that the burnt body of a 16-year-old girl, Micaela Manneson, lay for six weeks before she was discovered by members of the Eldorado Park community.
In that time, her family had searched all over for her, and were told repeatedly that their daughter had run away from them and would be found in a drug house.
Instead, she became the victim of a rapist-turned-murderer. And the man who has been arrested in connection with the crime is her brother-in-law.
Now her family want to know how much work the police did on Micaela’s case.
They want to know:
- Why did the police treat Micaela’s case as a runaway and not as something more sinister?
- Why the family had to search for her on their own when tip-offs about her whereabouts had been given to the police?
- Why was her body found by the community and not by the cops?
- Why was the main suspect arrested by the community?
- Why was the main suspect not arrested when there were other charges open against him?
- Why was the main witness, who has disappeared, not arrested as an accomplice?
Ellen Manneson last saw her daughter on December 6.
Micaela was going to a party with her cousins, and Manneson phoned her at 7.30pm to find out when she was coming home.
She told her mom that she would be sleeping at her aunt’s house.
“The next morning, I called my sister early. I was worried because we had to go and fetch Micaela’s report from school,” Manneson said.
“My sister told me she wasn’t there and she had not come home the night before.”
Manneson was told that Micaela’s cousin had dropped her off at a house they had recently moved from. He did not know they had moved. Her brother-in-law Jonathan Marhala was there to fetch her.
“I went to the house, but three men I didn’t know were there. They said Jonathan wasn’t there and they hadn’t seen Micaela. I was worried as Micaela had never done this before. Everyone knows she isn’t the rough type.”
The next day, with still no word on the girl’s whereabouts, Manneson reported her daughter missing.
It was the start of six weeks of searching.
Then last month, a witness came forward. He said he was in the house when Micaela arrived, and he heard her screaming. He described where her body lay, and community member Shaun Garf and two friends made the gruesome discovery in a piece of veld in Nancefield, a small industrial suburb south of Eldorado Park.
Micaela had been burnt with tyres, and all that remained were a few bones. Manneson said Garf then searched for, found and made a citizen’s arrest of Marhala.
After the police had been to the site, the family went and found a few bones and Micaela’s silver watch, which had stopped at 4 o’clock.
A DNA test confirmed the bones as Micaela’s.
Marhala was arrested and has appeared in court.
Police spokesman Captain Philemon Khorombi said there were currently four cases pending against Marhala - two of rape, one of business robbery and this case of murder. Marhala was also found guilty of a 2004 charge of damage to property, and he served time for this crime, said Khorombi.
Khorombi defended the police, saying they had worked hard on the case and went with the family to search for Micaela.