Police believe missing 3-year-old Liyaqat Mentoor was murdered
Johannesburg - There have been no sightings, and no body found, but police believe they have enough to prove that 3-year-old Liyaqat Mentoor was murdered.
For 50 days police and the community have searched for the toddler, known affectionately as Lee, but on Thursday afternoon, Roodepoort police station commander Brigadier Sam Manala confirmed what family members had feared -that the boy was probably dead.
A family member extended a hand and comforted Kaylah Mentoor, the boy’s mother, when Manala broke the news.
“The evidence is tight, even though we don’t have a body,” said Manala. “We can prove that the child was murdered.”
Family and community members had gathered at the police station demanding to know why a court appearance by Mashinini that morning had been remanded to March 24 because documentation relating to forensic evidence was not yet ready.
Mashinini’s appearance had been brief. He spoke only when he asked his lawyer why the DNA certificate had not arrived. He is facing charges of kidnapping, defeating the ends of justice and now murder.
Mashinini has not applied for bail and has been in jail since the day Lee was reported missing on March 17.
So far, say police, he has not revealed what happened to Lee.
After Mashinini’s appearance, angry family and community members gathered outside the court house, saying police had not provided the DNA certificate in time.
“A child is missing, not a car,” screamed Rashieda Landis, a councillor from Johannesburg South. His (Mashinini’s) family need to start talking,” said Estelle Delport, Lee’s aunt.
Manala told family and community members: “This is a complicated case, there are no eyewitnesses and we will have to rely on circumstantial evidence.”
This evidence is blood that was found in the bathtub in the house where Mashinini was allegedly babysitting Lee. Police found the blood during an initial search of the premises, soon after his arrest.
Speaking to the Saturday Star, Manala said that if Lee wasn’t found, this would be the second time the SAPS would attempt to get a murder conviction without the presence of a body.
The first successful conviction was that of William Nkuna, who was found guilty of the murder of Police Constable Francis Rasuge.
Her body was eventually found at Nkuna’s house, in Hammanskraal, eight years after she went missing. By then, he had been convicted of murder and was in jail.
While Manala said police had a strong case against Mashinini, they would continue searching for evidence and the boy’s body to give the family closure.
Lee was reported missing on March 17. Mentoor had moved in with Mashinini, who was her boyfriend at the time. She had found work and was said to have left Lee with Mashinini, who would look after him during the day.
Mashinini allegedly told police that on March 16, he had taken Lee to the boy’s grandmother’s house.
He claimed that a couple had arrived and told him that they were relatives of the boy and had taken him. But since then, police and family say, his story has changed.
Mashinini was arrested when he arrived at the police station with Mentoor to open a missing person’s case.
Police credit the quick thinking of Lieutenant- Colonel Barney Mouton and warrant officers Attie Fourie and MossSethaba for possibly saving the investigation that night.
“The officers realised that there was something wrong and had the suspect arrested for child neglect,” said Captain Sonja Prinsloo, the Roodepoort Police spokesperson.
Two weeks ago, a large search party comprising police units and the community searched three areas close to the Walter Sisulu National Botanical Garden in Roodepoort. Police had identified these areas from analysing Mashinini’s alleged cellphone records.
Lee’s family say they are beginning to see the other side of a man they thought was a gentle soul who deeply loved Mentoor and her son.
This other side has been revealed in a diary believed to have been written by his ex-wife.
It shows a man prone to fits of anger, where he becomes physically aggressive, kicking his two children and ex-wife out of the house four days after she had given birth.
In one of the entries, she writes: “I’m scared for my life (He) even threatened to cut the baby out of my tummy.”
But while police say there is little chance that Lee is still alive, the family haven’t given up. “As long as we don’t find a body, there is still hope,” said Delport.
The Saturday Star