The community of the informal settlement of Jim se Bos in Philippi is grieving following the shock discovery of the body of missing five-year-old Alvino Blignaut, following a week-long search after he disappeared last Monday night.
On Friday their search for the child took them to a nearby dam, and yesterday his shocked parents, Alvin van der Berg and Magdalene Blignaut, told of the horror of recognising his body from the clothes he had been wearing.
The body was discovered late on Friday in the dam, in an area known as Knoppies se Plaas. Van der Berg said a family member had been taken in for questioning by police, but police would not confirm this yesterday.
The grief-stricken father said from the family’s shack yesterday that the group of searchers had separated to take different paths at the dam, which is about a kilometre from their home.
“Me and Magdalene walked together with one group. It was not long before a guy shouted that he had found something and we all ran to see.
“We then saw Alvino’s body in the water but we thought it was a tyre because it was covered by green stuff (algae). But then when we saw his clothes I knew it was him,” he said, adding that Blignaut had collapsed when she heard it was their son.
They alerted police immediately, and divers arrived at the scene to recover the body.
“The divers took out his body and showed me his face so that I could recognise him,” Van der Berg said, fighting back tears. “I knew it was him.”
The child’s body was taken to the Salt River mortuary. The family was told they would have to identify the body again tomorrow before a post-mortem was conducted.
Van der Berg said that his family had lived in the settlement for the past eight years, and that the death of their son was the first bad thing that had occurred there in that time.
Alvino’s devastated mother said she had prayed every day since Monday that he would return home safely.
The couple described their son as an obedient and playful boy.
“The day he went missing Alvino was with me at my friend’s house,” Van der Berg recalled.
“We left about 8pm and he wanted to race me home. He normally runs a shorter way and I take a longer way, and then when I get home he is normally there smiling because he has won.
“But on Monday night when I came home I asked his mother if he was home. When she said no I then went out again because sometimes he likes to hide. I looked outside for a bit but I could not find him.”
Blignaut said that when Van der Berg returned a second time without finding Alvino, she got worried and joined in the search.
“We searched all over. A few friends helped us, but we did not find him.”
At 9.35pm they called the police who helped them search until 3.30am the following morning.
Sniffer dogs, a police helicopter and police officials from four police stations were involved in the search – which continued unsuccessfully until Friday.
Community members were also questioned by detectives, resulting in the family member being taken in for questioning.
Police spokesman Captain Frederick van Wyk said yesterday that police were investigating a case of murder.
“The investigation is in process, so we cannot therefore confirm whether or not we have anyone in custody,” he added.
Both Van der Berg and Blignaut said they and their two daughters, Alvene, 10, and one-year-old Shanicka had been overwhelmed by the support of their community and the police.