Durban - With her alleged killer dead and Arlene Vanessa Pillay still missing, the 34-year-old’s family says their last hopes for closure lie with the search teams looking for her.
“It’s so tragic. We’re just numb,” Pillay’s sister, Emmaline, told The Mercury on Monday.
Pillay disappeared three months ago, shortly after having left her partner of eight years and the father of three of her four daughters - Ravichandren Chetty - and moved in with her mother.
Emmaline said the relationship was an abusive one and that her sister had decided “she didn’t want to live that life anymore”.
On the evening of her disappearance, Pillay went to Chetty’s house to drop off school clothes for their seven-year-old.
Emmaline saw the two in the car together at around 5.20pm.
“I didn't really think anything of it at the time, I didn't know it was the last time I would see her,” she said.
She realised something was amiss when she did not hear from her sister for two days and the family subsequently decided to open a missing persons case.
For weeks, she said, they struggled to make any headway.
Emmaline received an SMS from someone purporting to be Pillay saying she “just needed some time” but, she said, it did not sound like her sister.
When she tried to phone the number, she could not get through.
After the missing persons alert was circulated, she received another message, scolding her for escalating the situation.
Said Emmaline, it was “so hateful, it wasn’t like her”.
Then last month, police arrested Chetty in connection with Pillay’s disappearance.
He was charged with two counts of defeating the ends of justice, one count of kidnapping and one count of murder.
He made a brief appearance in court last week and was scheduled to apply for bail this week.
But on Friday, he was found hanged in the Mountain Rise holding cells.
He was believed to have killed himself.
On Sunday, search teams acting on information received during investigations scoured an area near Albert Falls Dam, but police spokesperson Colonel Thembeka Mbhele said yesterday that Pillay was still missing.
The search is expected to continue today.
Mbhele confirmed Chetty had died in police custody,adding that an inquest docket was opened.