Johannesburg - A tip-off from residents led to the arrest of a man believed to have raped and murdered two Diepsloot toddlers.
Police arrested the fifth suspect in Alexandra early on Friday morning.
The 29-year-old man has been on the run since Tuesday, when the mutilated bodies of two-year-old Yonelisa Mali and three-year-old Zandile Mali, who were cousins, were found in a communal toilet in Extension 1. They are also believed to have been raped.
On Thursday, police released an identikit they believed could help with the case, and offered a R100 000 reward for information that would lead to an arrest and prosecution.
After a tip-off from residents, the man was found with his family members at a house in Alexandra - more than 30km from Diepsloot - at about 1am on Friday.
“I don’t think he was expecting the police,” said police spokesman Brigadier Neville Malila.
The suspect apparently did not put up a fight. Malila said the identikit had made a difference in finding the man.
“We are relatively confident we can link him to the murders.”
The suspect, described as being 1.7m tall with a cut on his lip, will spend the weekend behind bars and is likely to appear in the Pretoria Magistrate’s Court on Monday.
Malila says most people who give police information are not after money.
“Some community members give this information freely. Some of them even say they want to stay anonymous and they don’t want money,” said Malila.
“But it doesn’t stop with the arrest of the suspect; we need to follow it through.”
At the time of publication, Malila said police were not looking at the possibility that the suspect’s family were harbouring him.
In another development, police say the suspect might also be responsible for kidnapping and murdering five-year-old Anelise Mkhondo last month.
Anelise went missing on September 6 from outside her home, about 100m from where the bodies of the Mali cousins were found. Like the cousins, she was snatched on a Saturday, but her body was discovered two days later under a pile of rubbish metres from her home.
Community Work Programme members sifting for materials found her body. It appeared she had been strangled with plastic.
Major-General Oswald Reddy of the Honeydew cluster of police stations, under which Diepsloot falls, said there was a sense of relief on Friday.
“Since Tuesday we haven’t slept.”
Reddy appeared at the scene on Tuesday and began pulling together a team of investigators.
Meanwhile, the four other suspects - arrested hours after the gruesome discovery of the Mali cousins - were due to appear in the Pretoria Magistrate’s Court on Friday.
They are the suspect’s neighbours and were brought in for questioning because police believed they must have seen or heard something.
Reddy said police had also called in the Department of Home Affairs to investigate the suspects’ ID books as these might be fake.
Malila said acting Gauteng provincial police commissioner Lieutenant-General Lesetja Joel Mothiba thanked the community for their help and commended the hard work of investigators.
“Since Tuesday, they haven’t had an eye closed; they’ve gone through every little bit of evidence to make sure they catch him.”