Mom's anguish: All that's left of her little boy are 2 blood drops
Boyfriend charged with murder, but a flicker of hope remains that the 3-year-old will be found alive
Two drops of blood on the bathroom floor.
These are the only clue to suggest that something terrible may have happened to three-year-old Liyaqat “Lee” Mentoor, who went missing from a Roodepoort home two months ago to the day.
And while Lee remains missing, for his 23-year-old mother Kaylah Mentoor and her family, only the faintest glimmer of hope remains that he will ever be found alive.
“I can’t deal with it, I really can’t. I can’t even explain how I am feeling,” Kaylah said.
“He’s my only baby. It’s hard – I try not to be emotional and cry. I haven’t cried in a long time but yesterday, yesterday was really hard,” she said. The day before had been Mother’s Day.The case against the man believed to have harmed Lee, Onke Mashinini (29), also rests on the blood found in Mashinini’s parental home.
Mashinini, who was Kaylah’s boyfriend at the time, has since been charged with kidnapping, defeating the ends of justice, negligence – and murder.
But there is no body. There is no trace of Lee, the toddler who loves pizza, Spider-Man and the Cars movie.
The behaviour of Mashinini and his family immediately after Lee’s disappearance on March 16 may hold some more clues – but they have not spoken to Lee’s family since the day of his disappearance, leaving more questions unanswered.
Even members of law enforcement investigating Lee’s disappearance hesitate to keep the hope alive.
Officers have told Kaylah and Lee’s other family to prepare themselves for the worst.Now the extensive search operation conducted for Lee has changed tone. It is no longer the hunt for a missing child. It is a search for a small, lifeless body.
Times Select sat down with Kaylah Mentoor and her aunt and uncle, Estelle and Rodney Delport, on Monday at the Delport’s home in Glen Vista, south of Johannesburg.
Kaylah, 23, was dressed in a gray hoodie, the hood drawn up to fend off the biting cold. She spoke of the day that Roodepoort SAPS station commander Brigadier Sam Manala told the family that Lee may no longer be alive.
“I hear it over and over again, that he could possibly not be alive. But when someone with authority said it, it hit me,” she said.Kaylah lives in a state of extremes – from being filled with hope that Lee will be found, to despair that he may be dead. But not knowing for sure what happened has left the young mother in a state of shock.“Sometimes I can’t even get out of bed. I don’t know what to do with myself anymore. Because I don’t have that closure,” she told Times Select.
“There is a small part of me that has hope. I will only believe my son is dead when I see his body. But then at the same time, sitting there thinking constantly about what happened, that hope just sinks lower and lower.”
On Friday, March 16 this year, Kaylah arrived at the Roodekrans home of her boyfriend of six months, Onke Mashinini.
As she had done every day for a few weeks, she had walked for an hour to get home from her job as a shop assistant at a clothing retailer.Lee had been sick the entire week – a change in the weather bringing on symptoms of his severe asthma. Worried that being at school might worsen his condition, Kaylah and Mashinini agreed that he would stay at home, and Mashininiwould watch him.
At the time, Mashinini was a driver for an app-based taxi service, but told Kaylah the car he drove was in for a service. According to her, it later turned out he had in fact been fired.
Shortly after arriving at the Mashinini’s home, Kaylah realised something was amiss. She had asked Mashinini to drop Lee off at the boy’s grandmother’s home nearby at 5pm – as he was due to spend the weekend with her.
But Lee was not there and, according to Mashinini, he had dropped the child off at 1pm already.Kaylah now knows that this never happened – as her mother was not home at the time. Her child was gone.
That same night, Mashinini was arrested and charged with negligence and kidnapping. Later, after the police found blood in the home Kaylah and Lee had shared with Mashinini and his parents, a charge of murder was added.
DNA tests confirmed the blood belongs to Lee.
Mashinini has appeared in court and, since the murder charge, has waived his right to bail. He is due to appear in the Roodepoort Magistrate’s Court again on May 24.
It is only the second time in South Africa that a suspect is being charged for murder with no body being found – the first being that of SAPS constable Francis Rasuge who went missing in 2004.
William Nkuna was sentenced to life in prison for murder a year later, in November 2005 – and Rasuge’s remains were only discovered at Nkuna’s home in Pretoria in 2012.
Manala has told the media he is confident the police have a strong case against Mashinini.For the family, the court process is extremely frustrating as it seems there is little to no progress. But while they welcome the justidicial process and possible accountability for Lee, they simply want Lee found.
“Regardless of what happens I need to keep my son alive in me. And I need to remember what his voice sounds like, remember what he looks like, what he looked like when he was happy. When I was with him,” she said.
“Even the times when he would fight with me and I would get upset – it’s all those things that I really need to keep inside and keep alive. And I don’t want that to ever go away from me.”