Small town devastated over murder of 6-year-old Delvina Europa
Broken, shocked and lost for words.
This is what the family of six-year-old Delvina Europa is experiencing.
The close-knit community of the Overberg town of Elim in the Western Cape, which was rocked by the murder and suspected rape of Delvina this week, is struggling to pick up the pieces.
The grade 1 pupil with the friendly smile was last seen playing with other children across the road from her house.
She was supposed to sleep over at a friend's home with her older sister.
A family spokesperson, Ruth*, told TimesLIVE that the child's mother died on December 29 2018 and Delvina had been living with her mother's sister and her husband.
"We live in a very small town. Everyone knows everyone, and we all belong to the same churches. We are a very close community," Ruth said.
Delvina was last seen on Sunday, and reported missing to police on Monday. Her body was found on Tuesday.
The woman said she was in Bredasdorp, about 30km away, when she received the news that Europa was missing.
"I lay in my bed when the messages came through. My mother's instinct kicked in and I asked myself 'how can I lie in bed and a child is missing?'."
She said her motto in life is: "My child is your child." So she said she got into her bakkie and drove to Elim.
"The aunt didn't know that you can report a child missing immediately, that's why they started looking themselves."
She said they searched from pillar to post on Monday evening.
"We went from door to door. At houses where there were outside toilets, we put our ears to the doors and repeatedly called her name.
"We really hoped that we would find her," she said.
The search operation was eventually called off at midnight due to heavy rain and started again at 6am Tuesday.
The community gathered at the church where they opened with prayer. They walked towards the local school where Delvina was last seen by other community members.
Then a mother in the group discovered Delvina's body deep in the bushes close to a fountain.
"We were shocked, broken and lost for words. God really saved me not to see her body. To see such a small body laying there so vulnerable, it was horrible. There are no words to describe how the community felt at that moment."
Community members staged a peaceful walk and prayer session in the streets.
The little girl was described as a smart, spontaneous child who loved dancing and singing.
Ruth* said the 35-year-old man arrested for the crime was known to the family.
He appeared in the Bredasdorp Magistrate's Court on Thursday.
The matter was postponed to April 8 for a formal bail application.
National Prosecuting Authority spokesperson (NPA) Eric Ntabazalila confirmed that the man had previously been convicted of sexual assault. It is unclear at this stage what sentence he received.
Ntabazalila said the man also had a rape matter against him which was withdrawn in 2018.
NOTE: Ruth* is not the real name of the family spokesperson.