Dispute over boy in murder drama

Brazilian-SA child caught in tug-of-war after dad allegedly killed mom

22 July 2018 - 00:00 By TANIA BROUGHTON

He has just turned five but in his short life he has already endured more than his fair share of trauma.
He was playing in the next room when his dad allegedly murdered his mom and is a potential witness to the crime. And now he is at the centre of an international legal tug-of-war over who will care for him for the rest of his childhood.
His 47-year-old father - who cannot be named to protect the child's identity - handed himself over to the police in February this year, allegedly admitting that he had strangled his 30-year-old Brazilian wife in the flat they shared in Uvongo on the KwaZulu-Natal South Coast.
They had moved there four months earlier after the father, a welder, secured contract work nearby.
But he has pleaded not guilty in the Port Shepstone Regional Court to murder and says he acted in self-defence. He is expected to apply for bail soon, which the state is opposing.
At his court appearances, it was claimed that the man initially wrapped his wife's body in a duvet and put it in a cupboard. When the smell became unbearable, he went to the local Shelly Beach shopping centre and purchased a chest freezer, in which he stashed the body. 
Just before he called the police on the advice of his lawyer, he dropped his son off at his half-sister's house in Roodepoort, Gauteng, where the child has lived ever since.
Now the boy's maternal grandmother - who lives in Brazil - is fighting for custody of him."My daughter is dead. There is no one to speak for her," the grandmother said. "I am devastated. His [the father's] half-sister never liked my daughter. My daughter would not want her son living with her."
At the end of June, the aunt launched an urgent application in the High Court in Pretoria - with the blessing of her brother, who is in Westville Prison, but without informing the grandmother - and secured a temporary order that the child reside with her.
"He has been in our care since February ... I have ensured that he has had therapeutic intervention and he is being forensically assessed," the aunt says in her affidavit.
"The family in Brazil are practically strangers to him. Regardless of what has transpired, this does not strip my brother of his guardianship and parental rights and responsibilities."
In a report before the court, Minke Saayman of the Child and Family Centre in Johannesburg said from her sessions with the little boy "it appears he has been exposed to events which have resulted in severe trauma" and he needed to be emotionally stabilised.
The couple met in Brazil while the father was on a work contract there. The child was born in Brazil, holds dual Brazilian-South African citizenship and lived there until he was nine months old, when the couple decided to move to South Africa.They visited family in Brazil in December last year and the granny intended to come to South Africa this month for a visit.
Instead, she came in April to identify her daughter's body and retrieve her ashes. "They had a turbulent relationship. I was deeply concerned about this move. We kept in touch almost on a daily basis. I wanted to be close to her," the granny said.
With the assistance of local attorney Emile Myburgh - who once lived in Brazil and speaks Portuguese - she has launched her own court application to be named guardian. This is being opposed.
Myburgh, in his affidavit, says his client should have been cited in the proceedings right from the start. "They sought to shut her out from participating in a matter which should be rightfully decided by the Family Advocate and the court, not just on the aunt's version."..

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