Police battle to maintain order as Kuyga residents turn on suspects.
The discovery of a 14-year-old girl’s body in a filthy stream gave rise to hours of tension and violence at the Kuyga settlement in Greenbushes yesterday.
At least 20 police vehicles, including armoured riot vehicles, a police helicopter and dozens of heavily armed policemen were called to the settlement on the outskirts of Port Elizabeth to maintain order – and protect three men arrested in connection with the murder of Stacey-Lee Terblanche, 14, who had been shot in the head.
Her body was found face down in a litterinfested stream with a green poncho pulled over her head at 7.35am yesterday, just a few hundred metres from her parents’ small home.
The men, believed to be in their early 20s, were arrested at a house less than 100m from the Terblanche’s home.
They were later takento cells at the Kabega Park police station.
While residents alleged that Stacey-Lee had been raped, police at the scene said this would only be known once a postmortem was done today.
At least a thousand residents who converged on densely populated Nkanyiso Street, which forms a square around a small field in its centre, surged at police who were shielding the suspects.
Police were forced on a number of occasions to use a combination of rubber bullets and stun grenades to force the angry crowd back.
Furious residents then caused extensive damage when they attacked the police vehicles, slashing tyres and smashing windows with stones and other objects.
Terblanche’s tearful parents and other family members sat in shocked silence in their home while the residents raged on the street just metres from their front door.
Port Elizabeth police spokesman Warrant Officer Alwin Labans said the young girl, a Grade 4 pupil at the Kuyga Primary School, had last been seen with friends near a rubbish tip in the area where she had spent some time socialising.
“She told her friends at about 8pm on Tuesday that she was going home to watch television. “Her body was then found this morning. “Her parents did not report her missing on Tuesday night.
“While a postmortem is still to be conducted on the body, we are at this stage investigating a murder case,” Labans said.
Other charges could still be added to the docket, he said.
Describing the ensuing mayhem, Labans said that “all hell broke loose” when the suspects had been identified and a massive crowd then surged to attack them and damage the house they were in.
“While we moved the suspects immediately because of the risk to their safety, there were other occupants in that house.
“We knew that there are people in the community who could potentially damage that property, so we continued to maintain a presence to protect the house and its occupants,” he said.
By last night, the situation had been brought under control.
“We will, however, keep monitoring the situation,” Labans said.
“We understand the community is very frustrated by crime, but we appeal to them not to take the law into their own hands.”
Terblanche’s parents, Leentjie, 49, and Sydney, 42, said they were deeply shocked at their daughter’s death.
“This is terrible. We thought that Stacey-Lee was with her friends.
“We did not know what had happened until someone knocked on our door this morning to tell us her body had been found,” a weeping Leentjie said.
Sydney, who said Stacey-Lee was the youngest of their four children and a sweet child, confirmed the suspects were known to him and other family members.
“I think two of them are from Cape Town and the other one from here. One has been charged with murder before,” he said.
– Shaun Gillham