Murdered five-year-old Rafique Hardien went missing after playing at a neighbour's house in Portland on August 11, 2004.
Murdered five-year-old Rafique Hardien went missing after playing at a neighbour's house in Portland on August 11, 2004.

Nearly 2 decades on, family hear police have opened a murder case into Rafique Hardien’s death

By Genevieve Serra Time of article published Jun 5, 2021

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Cape Town - The family of Rafique Hardien learnt this week that the inquest investigation was changed to a murder investigation, 17 years after the five-year-old’s half-naked body was found dumped and wrapped inside plastic at a swimming pool in Mitchell’s Plain.

Police are yet to make arrests in the case.

For close to two decades, Rafique’s family were led to believe the case had been filed and shelved as an inquest, which is an inquiry into someone’s death.

Police spokesperson Lieutenant Colonel Andre Traut this week confirmed to Weekend Argus, as part of the Cold Case Series, that a case of murder had been opened for investigation.

“The decision to prosecute is the discretion of the NPA. The case is currently filed and should new evidence come to light, it will be investigated.”

Rafique’s family has expressed outrage, shock and disappointment in learning that the case was now a murder.

Rafique’s mother, Shaakierah Hardien, became a police officer, stationed at Mitchell’s Plain Police Station after his disappearance in 2004 and is unable to comment on the case due to South African Police’s Code of Conduct.

Rafique’s brother, Redaa Hardien, who was eight at the time of Rafique’s disappearance, spoke on behalf of the family.

Rafique had been playing at the next-door neighbour, Richard Junior Engelbrecht’s, home in Portland when he vanished and a search began for him on August 11, 2004.

Seventeen days later, on August 28, Rafique’s decomposed body was found.

A formal inquest into Rafique’s death was held at the time and the evidence led by neighbours and family were inconclusive.

“Why has it changed from an inquest to a murder and the family has not been informed,” said Redaa.

“When did this happen?

“When Annestacia Wiese was murdered, the police assigned another person to the case of Rafique and then they told us they could not prosecute him. The police messed up this case from the start.

“We feel disappointed, betrayed and hurt, we are shocked that this docket was changed and we were not informed.”

Cops load Richard Junior Engelbrecht into a police Nyala at Mitchell's Plain Magistrates court after he was arrested for the death of 11-year-old Annestacia Wiese of Woodlands. Picture: Shawn Uys

In 2007, police arrested Engelbrecht for the rape and murder of his girlfriend’s 11-year-old daughter, Annestacia Wiese, who also went missing.

Two days after her disappearance, Wiese’s body was found hidden inside the roof of her home in Woodlands, Mitchells Plain.

The NPA and The Department of Public Prosecutions previously told the media they could not prosecute or charge convicted child rapist and killer Richard “Junior” Engelbrecht for the murder of Rafique as he had given an explanation via his version of what happened on that day.

This took place while Engelbrecht was incarcerated for Wiese murder.

Annestacia Wiese. FILE

He has since been sentenced to three life terms without being eligible for parole.

He was also convicted for the rape of his three-year-old step-daughter and stabbing an American student in the head.

The DPP’s Advocate Susan Galloway, together with Rodney de Kock, decided it was too risky to attempt prosecution because Engelbrecht did not confess to Rafique’s murder but claimed a coffee table had fallen on the child while he had been inside another room at the residence in Portland.

NPA spokesperson Eric Ntabazaliza issued the report the DPP had sent to Rafique’s family at the time why they could not prosecute, also that a witness promised to give a statement but never did while his lawyer was missing.

This week, the NPA said all avenues were exhausted to prosecute Engelbrecht.

“It is, thus, untrue that a family has been left with a case wide open pending a witness statement namely the ex-wife of Mr Engelbrecht and brother in law. Both gave statements and the brother-in-law also testified during the formal inquest.

“There (were) no further attempts made by SAPS and the NPA to get a solid statement to bind an alleged confession made by the accused back to them.

“We had all the required information to consider the content of the confession.

“As there is no new information linking anyone to the commission of the crime, the Magistrate’s finding after the formal inquest still stands.”

The NPA said in their findings previously.

“In this statement, he states that he was at home when Rafique and his brother were playing. He was busy doing drugs in another room, and at some point in time, he heard a commotion.

“Upon investigating he found the deceased on the living-room floor with the coffee table having fallen on him. Apparently this table was, prior to this, on the couch.

“He became worried that he would be held responsible and put the body of the deceased into a bag. Later the same day, he dumped the body in the bushes at the swimming pool.

“Due to the content of the statement, it must be emphasised that this statement cannot be regarded as a confession.

“Mr Engelbrecht does not confess to injuring or killing the deceased either intentionally or negligently.

“It must also be mentioned that in the statement, Mr Engelbrecht also mentions that he dumped the body of the deceased at the swimming pool on the same day.

“Dr Liebenberg (pathologist) testified that, due to the decomposition of the body, it had been kept in an enclosed space where flies could not get to it until 24 hours before it was found.

“This does not fit with the version of Mr Engelbrecht.

“Attempts were made to obtain a statement from the witness (the name has been excluded as he was not charged and didn't make a second statement).

“Although he initially indicated that he did not tell the truth during the inquest and will now tell the whole story of Mr Engelbrecht’s involvement in the death of the deceased, he subsequently refused to speak to the investigating officer and referred him to his lawyer.

“The lawyer could not be contacted as he was never available and did not react to any messages left for him. Due to this the provisions of section 205 of Act 51 of 1977, also could not be followed in obtaining his statement. In view of the credibility finding regarding his testimony during the inquest, the fact that he would have to be compelled to give a statement and the fact that he may also be directly involved in the death of the deceased, it is doubtful that, should he eventually give a statement, he will be a credible witness in this matter.

“This is still the case even if he is now willing to give a statement.

Charles Julies, a former police officer who had worked in the missing persons unit at the time of Rafique’s disappearance and was also representing the family while Shaakierah could not speak, said there was a lot of evidence left unattended to.

“Where were the other children, the injuries were on the head and chest, how would a table fall on the head and chest?” he added.

“Was his clothing (Engelbrecht) sent to the lab to be tested? What happened to dumbbells that were on a fridge, that was to be taken for an exhibit? It disappeared afterwards.

“He was a suspect, it was a high-profile case, why didn’t they open a murder case from the start? They should get back to the witness statement. What was his statement, if it was about the table and what happened after that?

“When did he leave the (witness) scene, did this person assist him to dump the body and hide it also?

“They should always come to the family back then and said when they changed it to a murder, and I believe that was in 2005, but they never came to her, and it has been years they never to came to her.”

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Weekend Argus

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