A 15-year-old boy has confessed to raping and strangling his two-year-old cousin last Thursday.
The attack happened in sleepy Mantobello outside Ndwedwe on the KwaZulu-Natal North Coast.
Police say the boy, who cannot be named because he is a minor, also confessed to the victim's family that he committed the crime against his cousin, who was also a neighbour.
He said he did not know what went into his mind and that he was "tempted by sexual lust" because he was missing his girlfriend.
Local headman Mzikayifani Khuzwayo described the incident as shocking. He said he knew the suspect well and always thought of him as a "good boy".
"We are still shocked. It is one of the worst things to happen in the area. It is unacceptable," he said.
Khuzwayo was one the first people to arrive at the victim's home as he lived nearby.
"We heard the child's mother screaming and when we rushed there we found the child dead on the bed.
"She had bruises on her legs and on the buttocks. It was the worst sight one can imagine.
"And worse, the boy is said to have told other people that he raped the victim because he missed his girlfriend," he said.
The girl's mother was too distraught to talk to the media.
Police spokesman Captain S'fundiswa Hlophe said: "The boy confessed to the family and the police to both crimes."
He said after killing the child the boy left her on the bed like she was asleep.
"The child's mother left her in the care of a neighbour as she went to Ndwedwe to apply for an ID. On her return she found the baby asleep," said Hlophe.
Hlophe said when the child did not wake up, the woman had feeling something was wrong.
"When she tried to wake her up, that's when she realised that she was dead. On checking her, she noticed that her private parts were swollen," he said.
The boy, who also confessed to smoking dagga, appeared briefly in the Ndwedwe magistrate's court yesterday.
But he fainted and seemed to be suffering from epilepsy, prompting the magistrate to postpone the case to today.
The magistrate ordered that the suspect be referred to a doctor for medical assessment.