File Picture: AP Photo/Brynn Anderson

Police hope to find the killers of a 3-year-old-boy who was tortured before his body was discarded in a dumping site. 

The boy’s body was found at a dumping site near the Marathon informal settlement in Primrose on Sunday after he was reported missing by his family on Saturday. 

Two boys aged 7 and 8 found themselves at the centre of the murder investigation as they were the last ones seen with the little boy.

Police have, however, stated that they were not treating the two boys as murder suspects.

Spokesperson for the provincial police Lieutenant-Colonel Kay Makhubele said they were investigating a case of murder and confirmed that two boys were taken in for questioning at a police station only because they were the last ones seen with the boy.

"We are not treating them as criminals, we just took them to the police station for questioning and later released them into the custody of their parents. They are not suspects for now and the probation officer is involved."

Makhubele said the boy was reported missing on May 9. Police looked for him that night but did not find him.

The boy was then found the following day at the dumping site.

While a case of murder has been opened and the only people who may seem to have information are the two boys, a criminologist said even if the boys were found to be perpetrators, their age precludes them from any prosecution.

According to Professor Christiaan Bezuidenhout from the department of social work and criminology at the University of Pretoria, children up to the age of 10 don't have a criminal capacity according to the South African law.

"Even though there are children who commit heinous crimes, they can't be prosecuted because of their ages as it's believed that children that young have no ability to formulate an intention to commit crime.

"In severe situation they would be referred for therapy and also go through education programmers. They wont feel the full might of the law and will never have a criminal record even when they are old.

"It's believed that they have no mental state to understand the graveness of the act they're committing, that they can't formulate intent to commit crime nor can they distinguish between right or wrong hence the leniency," he said.

Bezuidenhout said there were many factors that lead to children committing crime such as circumstances under which they grow, home environment, violent video games they play, peer pressure and the music they listen to.

He said examples that the child sees as home were also a factor. 

"If the parents are violent, the child will be influenced by that environment. Other children grow up in very poor communities living below the bread line where there's a lot of violence. Others grow up in communities where xenophobia is very rife and foreigners are constantly attacked or in communities where people "burn witches".

"Children are always part of these violent acts and some even take part in them. Its not like when the community will be attacking a foreigner or "burning a witch" the children are hidden away. They are always there and witness that," he said.

So far, Makubele said, no one else has been arrested in this case.