A school bag and names written on her books was all the Moditse family needed to confirm the badly decomposed body found in the veld in Dube, Soweto, was that of their missing daughter Matlhogonolo.
An inmate at Johannesburg Central prison confessed to having kidnapped, rap_ed and murdered her on February 16 while he was on parole for another crime according to police.
The tragic end to the month-long search for the 12-year-old girl came yesterday after the inmate pointed out to the police the spot near George Goch where he had dumped her body.
The inmate was a close family friend of the Moditses.
The grade 3 pupil from Meadowlands went missing on February 16 after she was kidnapped from the Dr Mary Special School in Dobsonville.
Family spokesperson Pule Mokhatsane said: “No one is coping here. They are too traumatised. They have just found today that she has been finally discovered and it was only through a school bag and her names on her books that confirmed that it is her body.”
The area were she was found has tall weeds and far away from homes.
Mokhatsane said the suspect was called “uncle” by children in the Moditse household as he was regarded as family.
“He has been working as a handyman sometimes here in the yard and would empty dustbins and we would also dish food for him. We did not know that we were grooming a snake,” he said.
When Sowetan arrived at the family home, Matlhogonolo’s uncle Steven was battling to hold back his tears as he leant against the concrete wall.
He could only indicate that his niece was a “hyperactive girl” who loved people.
Mokhatsane said the family was also shocked that the suspect’s family had known for weeks that he had been arrested for violation of his parole conditions and sent back to prison, where he made the confession as he argued not to be released.
“They knew and we told them that other children had seen him leaving with our child from school,” he said.
According to the police and the family, the suspect had made the confession from prison after he was arrested last week for breaking parole conditions relating to his previous rap_e conviction.
Sowetan has learnt that the suspect had told prison officials that he was afraid of being released back to the community as residents wanted him for kidnapping and killing Matlhogonolo.
While residents staying near the veld expressed shock at the discovery of the body in their backyard, they were not surprised as it was not the first time a person’s body was dumped in the veld.
One resident, who gave his name only as Bongani, said: “We were shocked that all along there was a person who was killed and dumped here. But there is a guy from here who was found in these weeds he was apparently killed and dumped here,” he said.
Daisy Kgori said she and her neighbours were taken aback when the police and forensic investigators arrived in the area in search of the body.
“We were surprised when we saw the K9 Unit pulling up with prison warders and a prisoner who was in chains. They sent him to the weeds and came back with him. We were shocked that they were identifying a dead body.”
Police spokesperson Sgt Phindile Mavuso said the man confessed to raping and killing the girl. “The investigating officer interviewed the suspect from prison and he confessed to the rape and murder of the girl. Yesterday, police and correctional services arranged that the suspect be taken out of prison to point out where he dumped the girl’s body.”
Mavuso said police narrowed their investigation to the man after Matlhogonolo’s family suspected that he may be behind her disappearance.
“When the girl’s family was interviewed, they indicated that the suspect was more like a family friend who visited the family almost every morning and often washed their rubbish bins and joined them for breakfast,” Mavuso said.
She said the suspect’s confession will be placed before court when he appears soon.