Meet the cop - and his hero dog - who found Miguel Louw
Colin Chetty, who with Ghost discovered the little boy's remains, says it's all about bringing families closure
“We bring people home whether they’re alive or dead.”
These are the words of veteran cop Collin Chetty who, guided by the keen nose of his dog Ghost, may have unravelled the mystery of missing schoolboy Miguel Louw 49 days before.
“This job is about bringing people home and I am lucky I get to do that. We search for loved ones and we bring closure to families who have lost someone,” Chetty said.
The navy man turned policeman had been led by Ghost, a three-year-old German shepherd, to the decomposed remains of a schoolboy whose face had been obscured by the knotted sleeves of a jacket in a ravine in Phoenix.
Chetty made the grim find while on the heels of two men who had made their escape after a robbery, using the bush as cover.
DNA tests, comparing samples from the boy and from Louw’s mother Raylene, confirmed on Wednesday that the remains are those of the schoolboy who disappeared on July 17.
But for Chetty, himself a father, each find eases the burden he places on himself.
“Dealing with missing-children cases is the most trying because we are parents ourselves and we are able to relate with those parents who are in pain. I worry so much about how those children are feeling in that moment that they are lost and alone,” he said.
“It’s hard to keep your emotions at arm's length, but you see the people you search for in your own loved ones. I know I do. When I get home they are on my mind. I just try and give my full focus to my job,” he added.
The 45-year-old policeman said he and Ghost were a team, and that his pawed partner was the real star of the show.
“I have always had a special bond with dogs and it is incredible to see how they work and how they apply themselves, especially in this field. I chose this path in my career because I wanted to serve my community and I have a passion for that,” he said.
“Whether it’s a person who is missing or a person who has died, all we want to do is bring people some closure.”
From the brink of death
He said Ghost had marked the line between life and death for an elderly man whom they had found lost and alone, on the brink of death from exposure.
“An elderly man suffering from memory loss had gone missing in Newlands. He normally walked from his home to the shops and on that particular Friday he went for his usual walk and never came home. I had been on leave and my commander called me to go and help.
“Together with another handler from Pietermaritzburg we worked out his usual route and as we left his road we came across a path through the bush. We searched and I found this elderly man lying next to a tree. He was barefoot and had no jacket. He was cold and disoriented.
“We got him to an ambulance and we definitely made a difference in his life. He would have died without us.”