For almost a month, pensioner Cecilia Ntelele’s body lay inside the shallow grave dug beneath the shack she shared with her son.
All this time, her unemployed 46-year-old son Molefi pretended that nothing had happened, and continued eating and sleeping inside the two-room shack in Finetown, south of Joburg, the mother and son had shared for years.
But on Sunday afternoon, Molefi was in police custody, and Ntelele’s body had been exhumed and taken to the morgue, leaving behind a stifling smell that would remind relatives and neighbours of their gruesome discovery.
On Sunday, family members and residents couldn’t contain their emotions after the body of 72-year-old Ntelele was discovered, after she had been reported missing on January 21.
The two-room shack was considered a crime scene for over 12 hours as forensic investigators combed inside for further evidence.
They found that Ntelele had been repeatedly bludgeoned with a hammer at the back of her head before her lifeless body was tossed into the shallow grave.
It is alleged that the accused told relatives that his mother was taken to Bloemfontein by an uncle, whose name was not known to family members.
A neighbour said Molefi’s behaviour grew strange after his mother went missing. “We knew something was wrong, because Cecilia went missing But after a week or two we saw her son bringing rubble to the yard, and he frequently walked past with a bottle of disinfectant in his hand,” said neighbour Cecilia Makhajane.
Ntelele’s niece Thenjiwe Rapoo said “I used to phone her every second day because she and I are the only surviving members from our family’s side. But her phone was off and I called another relative to find out what was happening.”
Rapoo explained that she called relatives in an attempt to track down Ntelele, but nobody knew where she was.
“I became suspicious because magogo is not someone to lose contact with us. I then decided to come on Friday to see what I could do to help track her down because talking over the phone wasn’t helping,” she said.
Rapoo said she met members of the local community policing forum on Friday. She went to Ntelele’s recently built RDP house and found that it was being rented out. The tenants moved out immediately after the visit.
“It was suspicious that there were people who had occupied magogo’s RDP house, especially considering that she had been reported missing,” she said.
Rapoo said they realised that the accused had buried her aunt beneath the shack after they interrogated him on Saturday evening.
While Rapoo sat with the family, one of the relatives started pointing out that all the essentials needed by Ntelele, such as her crutches and medication, were still in her room.
“Then we started asking ‘what did she leave with, if all her things are still here?’ And we started asking Molefi about the heap of sand that was under a couch in the shack and we immediately went there to check,” she said.
Rapoo said she and other members of her family removed the couch and she could tell that the heap of sand was a grave.
“After being sure that it was a grave, I called a neighbour and we called the police. One of my cousins helped to remove the couch and the mat that was beneath it and we saw worms and ants,” she said.
“The same cousin walked on top of the shallow grave and his foot sank into the hole, and a pungent smell came out of it. One of the police officers asked for a shovel so he could dig up whatever was in there, but the accused stopped him and told him it was his mother who was in the grave.”
She said the police took the family’s statements before arresting Molefi.