Slain Sadia laid to rest: Saying farewell to nine years of joy
'A child being dropped off at school should be a safe, happy moment – not a tragic one'
Burly Chatsworth Police Station commander Brigadier Kevin James barely kept his emotions in check as he saluted slain nine-year-old Sadia Sukhraj lying in a white casket at the Christian Revival Centre on Tuesday.
But when he turned to sympathise with the girl's father Pastor Shailendra Sukhraj and grandfather Prem, James openly wept.
Behind him, his officers waited to pay their respects as did a never-ending stream of mourners – from family and friends to complete strangers.
Less than 24 hours earlier, the community had turned on James and his team as they demanded answers on Sadia Sukhraj's tragic death.
However at her funeral service on Tuesday morning, her grieving family gave their full support to the men in blue.The child had been with her father Shailendra on a school run on Monday morning when he was pulled from the car while in the driveway of her grandfather's Shallcross home by three men‚ who then sped off with Sadia – her father and an off-duty policeman in pursuit.
Gunfire was exchanged as the hijackers fled in the car and from whose gun the fatal bullet that struck the girl was fired, is the subject of a police investigation. Police however have ruled out the off-duty policeman.
Their escape was cut short when they collided with a truck before losing control of the car‚ which spun and came to rest in a neighbourhood park. One of the men fled the scene‚ a second was arrested and a third accomplice died near the stolen car.
The injured girl‚ found lying in the car‚ is understood to have been rushed to the hospital where she later died.The family believe that the third suspect in the botched hijacking which claimed the child's life, would have been arrested had it not been for the community outrage.
“As the family representative I want to express our heartfelt appreciation to the men in blue. I am also aware that your men would have arrested the third suspect yesterday but because of uproar of the community you had to stay back to protect the police station,” Pastor Cyril Pillay said.
“We thank you and we stand by you. I say on behalf of the family and a community activist, we support the South African police in Bayview and in Chatsworth. We apologise for all the derogatory things that have been said about you.”
Video footage shot on Monday night showed angry Chatsworth residents hurling stones at police‚ the officers responding with rubber bullets‚ teargas and stun grenades to disperse the group.
Twenty residents were arrested and spent the night under the same roof as a man who is accused of being involved in Sadie's killing.Speaking on behalf of the KwaZulu-Natal premier's office, public works MEC Ravi Pillay said the community had every right to be angry that a child of “just nine years of age and who had been the loving pride and joy of her parents and family” should be the victim of a horrendous crime.
“Yes, every society must deal with crime at some level. But there are certain places that are sacred – our places of worship – our homes – and our schools. A child being dropped off at school should be a safe, happy moment – not a tragic one.
“We understand our community’s rage when they spontaneously rose to gather at the Chatsworth Police Station to voice their anger and protest that such a dastardly crime should occur,” he said. Pillay said the time had come for the community to get more organised to take back their streets.
He said national Police Minister Bheki Cele assured him that he would visit the family and give “personal attention to this horrendous crime”.
“He (Cele) is also going to visit the police station to ensure that the investigation and preparation for court is thorough and diligent. He will also require a report on the community protest and police action which took place last night,” he said.