Missing boy’s father flies into rage after accused gets bail
Anguished father hits out as accused is given bail and magistrate criticises state's weak argument
It was only after Mohammed Ebrahim was granted bail on Wednesday and began his walk back to the cells that missing schoolboy Miguel Louw’s exasperated father flew into a rage.
In a series of flailing blows, using a jacket to extend his reach, Louw screamed at the accused: “You took my son!”
In the preceding moments, Kirk Louw cut an exhausted figure as he sat in the front row of the Durban Magistrate’s Court gallery – a picture of his missing nine-year-old son on a T-shirt hanging loosely on his shoulders.
While others in the gallery jeered Ebrahim, a butcher accused of kidnapping the Sydenham schoolboy, Louw was stoic.
It must have been crushing for Louw to hear the magistrate say that the case against Ebrahim was so threadbare that a guilty verdict was beyond the realm of possibility.Prosecutor Calvin Govender, in leading evidence opposing Ebrahim’s release on bail, was forced to outline evidence the state had in hand.
In an affidavit, investigating officer Sibusiso Zondo walked through the final sighting of the boy based on grainy CCTV footage – the basis of the kidnapping charge.“It is alleged that Ebrahim waited outside school, making enquiries about Miguel Louw. Ebrahim then took him from the school to the KFC where he bought him food and then left.
“[Louw] crossed the road with Ebrahim [and went] to a bus stop and has never been seen again. [Louw's] guardians gave no consent for him to accompany the child.”
He said that when Ebrahim was arrested three days later, he was in possession of Miguel Louw’s birth certificate and his mother’s identity document, items the state says he stole.
Chris Gounden, for Ebrahim, held that the case against his client was weak and based almost entirely on circumstantial evidence.
He said his client readily admitted that he’d seen the boy after he’d finished school and had bought him food, but had left him at the roadside and boarded a taxi to make his way home.As for the birth certificate and ID book, Ebrahim said he’d found them at Louw’s house and had held them for safekeeping, forgetting that he’d even taken them.
“The police have focused all of their attention on the accused based purely on speculation that he was the last person seen with the child,” he said.
“The real perpetrator could get away with this if we keep looking at the accused in this matter,” Gounden added.
Magistrate Mahomed Motala said that, considering the evidence before him, a conviction was near impossible.
“I might as well give you a prediction now. The finding is going to be not guilty given what is placed before me,” he said.
“The high-water mark of the state's case is that Ebrahim disappeared for three days [after Louw’s disappearance] and that borders on outlining a risk that he may evade trial.
"A person’s inclination to not stand trial is directly proportionate to the strength of the state's case. If all you have is what you’ve told me you have, what purpose does keeping him in custody serve?” the magistrate asked.
He ruled that Ebrahim, the only suspect, be released on bail of R2,500, much to the chagrin of all in the gallery.“One cannot say that the case against the applicant is strong. Unless there is more [evidence] it pains me to say that the court will find great difficulty in convicting this accused,” he said.
“The case against him is weak. The prospects of him being found guilty are somewhat tenuous as things stand. Yes, there is public outrage, but the public perception of how these things work can only be secondary to other important factors the court must consider,” he said.
“Otherwise we may as well throw out all the law books and create a lynch mob and everyone that appears will suffer a fate no civilised society would want visited upon it.”
Motala said: “I am not saying he is innocent, I am saying there are not grounds for me to refuse him bail.”
Ebrahim is due to appear again on October 17.