Missing child found dead, family blame 'slow' police

Dipuo Tsotetsi, the mother of Bokamoso who was found dead after going missing on Friday in Duduza, Ekurhuleni. / KABELO MOKOENA
Dipuo Tsotetsi, the mother of Bokamoso who was found dead after going missing on Friday in Duduza, Ekurhuleni. / KABELO MOKOENA

The family of a four-year-old girl who was found dead a day after she went missing, believe they could have found her alive had the police responded sooner.

Bokamoso Malihlohonolo Tsotetsi went missing from her home in Duduza on the East Rand on Friday.

Her mother Dipuo Tsotetsi said she last saw her around 12pm before she fell asleep.

"She had earlier asked me for water and I gave it to her. She later came to my room while I laid on the bed. She said 'mama', and I replied by saying 'what is it?' She stood next to the bed and later left the room, that was the last time I saw her," she said.

Tsotetsi said she woke up about an hour later and Bokamoso was nowhere to be found.

"Together with a few neighbours, we looked for her everywhere until we went to Duduza police station at about 9pm. If she is not in our yard, she is at the neighbour's house, she never goes too far."

Tsotetsi said when they arrived at the police station, a policeman told her to come back with the child's photo the next day.

"If a child goes missing, the police normally drive around making the announcement on a loud speaker. We asked him if he can't get someone to do that and he said the people would be available the next day. He had no sense of urgency. It felt like he was not willing to help us find my child.

"I feel like we could have found her alive had the officer done something," she said.

The unemployed mother of two said she went back home and called Childline and 10111 hoping to get assistance.

"The people from 10111 sent a police vehicle that arrived at 12 midnight. We looked and asked around until 6am on Saturday when the police officers who were helping us left," she said.

Her relatives made posters at 7am that were placed on street poles and handed out to the public.

Tsotetsi's cousin Vusi Tshabalala said they received a call just before 3pm about the body of a child wearing the same clothes as described in the posters that was found at a nearby dam.

"The area is not a place where a child can go alone, it is far from where we live and scary. When I got there it was not something I expected [to see].

"She was floating face down, a chunk of the skin on her arm was gone and her T-shirt covered part of her body. She had marks on her back as though she was assaulted." Tshabalala also blamed the police for the slow response. "We feel we could have found her alive had the police acted fast."

Brigadier Mathapelo Peters said they have noted with concern the allegations relating to how the police reacted to the case. She said an internal investigation was currently underway.

A total of 124 children were reported missing to Missing Children SA, a non-profit organisation that assist in the recovery and safe return of missing persons, in the past year.

About 92 of these children were found. "It is an unfortunate reality that 2% of the children found again, were found deceased," said national coordinator Bianca van Aswegen.

She said according to the Missing Persons Bureau, a child goes missing every five hours in the country.

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