New Brighton families living in fear after little Sonia murdered, dumped
A Port Elizabeth mother stood frozen in shock yesterday as she stared out at an open field where the body of her seven-year-old daughter lay.
Little Sonia Payi, who was abducted while on her way to a shop on Saturday night, was found in a field in Struanway in New Brighton – about 4km from where she was last seen – shortly after midday.
Sonia’s mother, Bongiwe Payi, 31, accompanied by about seven family members and friends, arrived by taxi at the field shortly after the child’s body was found.
Bongiwe stood absolutely still, her face blank and in shock as she looked at the field where detectives were gathering evidence.
Before Sonia’s body was recovered, family members ushered her mother away shielding her from seeing her child’s body.
The group returned home before they could catch a glimpse of their little girl.
Sonia’s father, Simphiwe Doche, 37, who was still struggling to come to terms with the news of his daughter’s death, said the family was in a state of shock.
“We are in pain and we cannot talk right now. We are not ready to divulge any information,” Doche said.
“Somehow we have managed to find closure as her body has been found, but we are still in a lot of pain.”
The normally noisy Mbilini Street in New Brighton which is usually a hub of activity was sombre and deserted.
The Payi family home, however, was filled with neighbours who had come to comfort the bereaved family.
One neighbour, who spoke on condition of anonymity, described Sonia as a sweet child.
“She was a good child and liked to play with babies. We are very sad as we were praying and hoping for a better outcome,” the neighbour said.
“We are very sad as we were praying and hoping for a better outcome,” the neighbour said.
“We are extremely scared and have been keeping the children indoors. “We feel unsafe. This has brought unhappiness to our community,” the neighbour said.
Sonia, a Grade 2 pupil at Bhongweni Primary School, was snatched by an unknown man after sneaking out of the house with a six-year -old friend to buy chips from a nearby shop on Saturday night.
The alarm was raised after the younger child returned home and told Sonia’s grandmother that she had been taken by a man.
The kidnapper gave the six-year-old 50 cents, told her to buy sweets and walked away with Sonia. Since the abduction, police, residents and relatives had been canvassing the area, concentrating on surrounding streets, alleys and a nearby cemetery.
According to police, detectives were following up on leads on another case they were investigating when they stumbled upon the body lying in an open field.
While Struanway is a busy thoroughfare, Sonia’s body was not visible from the road.
Police combed the surrounding area shortly after the discovery searching for clues.
Police spokesman Captain Andre Beetge said while the police helicopter had been called in to search the area on Sunday, the body had not been seen during the aerial operation.
“It is suspected that she could have been murdered somewhere else and her body dumped there under the cover of darkness.
“Due to the timeline of the search, we suspect that the body could have been placed there during the early hours of the morning or late at night,” Beetge said.
“Preliminary signs show no indication of sexual assault and she was fully clothed.”
While the cause of death remained unknown, indications were that Sonia had been strangled. “We will only know more once we the postmortem is completed.”
Beetge said the motive for the abduction was unknown.
He could not provide comment on the safety of the child who was with Sonia prior to her abduction.
“I can only presume that she is safe – otherwise the investigating officer would have moved her to a different destination to stay with relatives,” Beetge said.