It was determined the remains of a toddler found in Harrismith in the Free State on Saturday were most probably those of Liam Nortjé, who went missing nearly two years ago at the age of three while in the care of his father.
This could likely close the chapter on the mystery surrounding Liam’s disappearance, whose father, Nantes Nortjé, 48, was found guilty of his murder last week despite the absence of a body.
On December 13, Nantes was sentenced to life imprisonment by the circuit High Court in Harrismith for murdering his son, Maroela Media reported.
According to Rapport, a man who was walking his dog in a field in the Intabazwe township near Harrismith found the remains of a toddler in a shallow grave.
Police spokesperson Warrant Officer Mmako Mophiring confirmed to the newspaper that Liam’s mother, Cheinelle Brooks, 42, identified a pair of Spider-Man sandals found in the grave as Liam’s. She had reportedly bought them and he was wearing them when he disappeared.
Mophiring said DNA testing would confirm whether the remains were indeed those of Liam.
Liam went missing in November 2017 when he went to visit his father in Kestell in the eastern Free State. Nortjé and Brooks were in the middle of divorce proceedings at the time.
Nortjé had refused to reveal Liam’s whereabouts since his arrest. He claimed, among other things, that Liam was alive and that he had given him to a childless couple who lived overseas.
Judge Corné van Zyl ruled that Nantes had murdered Liam after kidnapping the boy in late November 2017. Nantes drove off with the boy and later called his estranged wife to tell her that she’d never see their son again, YOU reported.
Nantes was reportedly also found guilty on two charges of aggravated assault and one of ordinary assault on Cheinelle and their two daughters. The assaults happened in the time before Liam’s disappearance.
Previously, Cheinelle told YOU that Nantes had left behind a scorched lock of Liam’s blond hair and a note, saying: “Good luck with your life without me and Liam.”
Despite all indications to the contrary and the court judgment, Cheinelle had been living in the hope that her son is still alive.
“I have hope every day. But he’d planned everything – even the lock of hair he left behind. He’d planned every last detail,” she told YOU shortly before Nantes’ trial started in August.
Free State police spokesperson Colonel Thandi Mbambo told Times Live that a body was found on Saturday in Harrismith, but could not confirm if it was Liam’s body. She said they were waiting for results of a DNA test and could not say when this would happen.
“The mother has identified a couple of things that suggest that the body is Liam’s, but unfortunately as police, we can’t rely on those to conclude that it is indeed his body,” she said. Mbambo reportedly said they were also investigating whether Nantes worked with other people in the disappearance and murder of his son.