In the Katlehong police station spokesman Captain Mega Ndobe had a problem.
For two months his detectives had been trying desperately to identify the body of young boy who had been found dumped just metres from the railway tracks in Katlehong.
Detectives had canvassed the area, but no one seemed to know anything about this boy, who a passer-by discovered dressed in a new tracksuit top and sneakers.
The family who lived about five metres from where he was discovered heard nothing that night.
Ndobe explained that they had even gone to a local radio station for help, but again no one came forward.
The police now thought he was from somewhere else and from the cigarette burns across his body, and a healed broken rib they also suspected they had a case of gross child neglect.
As media we couldn’t really help. The two photographs Ndobe handed me, that day towards the end of September, were too gruesome to publish.
But newspaper graphic artist Wilson Mgobhozi felt something could done.
Mgobhozi usually draws people in court, but he was willing to go to the Germiston Mortuary brave the stench of decay and sketch the boy. This sketch could then be printed in the media. A good plan, we thought, until the police shot it down.
The problem, they pointed out, was that Mgobhozi could be called as a witness in court.
They complied the Identikit using Photoshop and high quality photographs taken of the corpse. The artist told how he spent a lot of time working on the boy’s eyes, for he felt that would get people to take notice. He also left the scars on the boy. The reason for this was that anyone who knew the boy, might just recognise him from the abuse he had suffered.
But it was the boy’s half-hooded eyes that were the most haunting.
The day after the boy’s image was published, his mother came forward.
Family members were later to say that the Identikit was spot on.
The boy now had a name, but there was still justice to get.
We have always called him Sipho, we can’t as yet use his full name, because of the nature of the crime.
Unlike crime reality shows like The First 48, murderers aren’t always caught in the first couple of hours of a killing. It was to take another nine months before Sipho’s alleged killer was to be tracked to a shack in Zonkizizwe on The East Rand.
In the months inbetween we attended Sipho’s funeral, his coffin and plot being paid for by the community. His grave doesn’t have a tombstone.
With the arrest the detectives believe they got justice for the seven-year-old boy. But there is still something incredibly sad about Sipho. That picture of a boy with the haunting eyes, is the only clear image left of him.
There is only one known photograph of Sipho, and it was so blurred police couldn’t use it for identification purposes.
*To read more about Sipho’s father’s arrest and the boy’s sad life check out www.timeslive.co.za