Nine-year-old Miguel Louw, who was murdered by a family friend in 2018, was a “very bubbly, loving child who always had a smile”, his aunt told a probation officer.
And the family were still struggling with grief.
Arguments during sentencing proceedings were heard in the Durban high court on Monday after Mohamed Vahed Ebrahim was found guilty earlier this year of kidnapping and murdering the young boy, apparently because his mother had spurned his romantic advances.
Sentencing is expected to be handed down on Friday.
At the trial, which lasted more than 20 days, Ebrahim pleaded not guilty, and chose not to testify, but judge Jacqueline Henriques said the evidence proved that he had been with Miguel at a nearby KFC after school on the day he disappeared.
Miguel was last seen, on CCTV footage, sitting with Ebrahim waiting for a takeaway order and then seen leaving, with Ebrahim holding his hand.
Another camera showed them crossing the road and heading away from the direction of Miguel’s house.
Cellphone evidence presented to the court proved that Ebrahim was that afternoon in the vicinity of Phoenix, near his own home and where Miguel’s body was found almost two months later, on September 2, by a policeman in pursuit of suspects.
While his body was badly decomposed, medical reports suggested he had been suffocated and had died soon after disappearing.
In her report, which was handed in to the court, probation officer Thobile Sikhakhane said she had interviewed Miguel’s mother, Raylene, his sister and aunt.
She said Raylene was very emotional and cried as soon as her son’s name was mentioned.
“She still uses present tense when she speaks about him. Talking about it brings pain like it all happened yesterday.
“She feels like her son was ripped from her. Her family had been kind to Ebrahim when he lost his job, employing him to do odd jobs at their home.
“She reported that the lack of remorse is so disturbing. She cannot understand how a person they welcomed into their home turned out to be so cruel.”
She said Miguel’s father, who died from a heart attack, had, in fact, died of a broken heart.
“She said whatever sentence the court decides to impose, it must be such that he cannot come out and do this to anyone else”.
The probation officer said during her interview with Ebrahim, he still maintained his innocence.
“He laughed most of the time during the interview and was quick to accuse others and shift the blame from himself. He did not display any sense of remorse.”
The probation officer recommended that he be sentenced to direct imprisonment “aligned to the premeditated murder of an innocent child who was deprived of his right to life”.
In a victim impact statement, Miguel’s grandmother, Arlene Omardeen, spoke of the family’s anguish as days and weeks went by before his body was found.
“Every time we heard a knock on the door we rushed to answer. When we received the message that a young boy’s body had been found my heart almost stopped. When the DNA results came through that it was Miguel, the entire family broke down something terrible.
“I said ‘Lord, why our family? What did we do to deserve this? Life will never be the same again.’”
His mom, Raylene, said her life had been complete.
On the day he disappeared, she had kissed him goodbye and told him she loved him, as she always did when he headed off to school. When his body was found, it was in the “most horrific, traumatised, despicable and brutal condition”.
“I honestly don’t wish for any parent to experience what we went through. The nightmares continue … and the thoughts of how he must have cried for me and how scared he must have felt, makes me feel ill to my stomach.”
His sister, Mikayla, said: “I love Miguel with my whole heart. I will never be OK. But I will try to be.”
KwaZulu-Natal National Prosecuting Authority spokesperson Natasha Kara said the case had been adjourned to Friday for sentencing.
“The matter was in court today and the state presented the probation officer’s report to court. The matter was then adjourned to Friday provisionally, where a date for sentencing will be set,” said Kara.
Tashnim Dos Santos, Miguel’s aunt who spoke on behalf of the Louw family, told TimesLIVE the grieving family were expecting a sentencing from judge Henriques on Monday, but understand the need for patience.
“We were hoping for a sentencing today [Monday]. Obviously we didn’t get what we expected as yet but we still trust in God for a stricter sentence. The family is grieving and obviously very frustrated but we understand due to Covid-19 everything has been prolonged, so we trust in God that hopefully we will get what we want,” she said.
“I feel that the judge has sufficient evidence to make her decision, but we trust in God that justice will be served at the end. We just have to have patience.”