Cape Town - Angry residents of Pine Valley informal settlement in Wolseley allegedly took matters into their own hands, torching the trailer of the man arrested in connection with the murder of 21-year-old Bernadine Frans.
The 33-year-old was arrested after he was caught red-handed on Saturday evening "dragging something that turned out to be the body of a local woman“, police said.
They are now investigating whether he may be linked to the killing of at least two other people whose bodies were found in shallow graves.
This comes after officers were called out to the area again after a passer-by alerted them to the graves in an open field.
Crime scene experts from the police, including the K-9 unit, detectives and fingerprint experts, were on the scene until late, said police spokesperson Novela Potelwa.
She said they were still investigating whether the suspect could be linked to the other bodies as well. “The 33-year-old suspect arrested has been charged with murder and will appear in court (today) in Wolseley,” Potelwa said.
Residents of the small Boland town on Monday gathered in their numbers at the police station and at the charred trailer the suspect lived in.
Frans’s aunt, Rene Cloete, said her body was identified by members of the neighbourhood watch.
“She died in a very brutal manner. She didn’t deserve to die like that.
“My cousin, who serves on the neighbourhood watch, called me to inform me of her body being found.
“She wasn’t a difficult or troubling person and would never hurt a fly,” she said.
Cloete said funeral arrangements were under way.
Frans’s friend, Anovuyo Mqungquthu, told the Cape Times that they were together on Saturday evening.
Community leader Jacob Zalie said on Monday that they had a meeting with residents, the municipality and local and provincial police.
“The guy who was arrested was part of it. He showed some other places where maybe there are some other bodies. We don’t know yet … The community is very angry. This is a small town and there’s always crime in the community. I grew up in this area, I’m 53 years old and it’s the first time I’ve seen something like this,” he said.
Women and children rights group Philisa Abafazi Bethu founder Lucinda Evans said there was little to no support for women in rural areas.
“It’s shocking, and women in rural areas are much more vulnerable than city women. There is very little support for women rurally as there are not a lot of gender-based violence prevention programmes accessible to women,” Evans said.
Anyone with information can anonymously contact Detective Pieters of Wolseley police at 079 894 0195; Crime Stop at 08600 10111 or SMS Crime Line at 32211.
* Additional reporting by Chevon Booysen