It was all smiles from Mohamed Ebrahim, who is accused of kidnapping and murdering nine-year-old Miguel Louw of Sydenham, in the Durban High Court on Tuesday.
Ebrahim, also referred to as Vahed in court, was in an oddly positive mood interacting with the media, whom he had previously scorned, and even smiled for pictures.
Tuesday marked the first day of the murder trial with the public gallery full of Louw and Ebrahim supporters and family.
The case, which has gone to trial about a year after Miguel went missing, sparked national outrage after Ebrahim – a close acquaintance and co-worker of his mother, Raylene – was implicated in the kidnapping and murder of the Rippon Primary School pupil on July 17, 2018.
A 14-year-old witness, who cannot be identified by order of the court, was the first to take the stand.
Ebrahim was placed outside Miguel’s school on the day in question.
The witness said that after school, he was walking with friends when they were approached by Ebrahim near the school gate.
“This man said to Siyanda [another friend] to call Miguel, he would give him R10 for doing so. I’ve seen him before. He came to the school in the company of Miguel’s mother. I saw him come to the school with the mother and the man [Ebrahim] on another day.”
He added: “I thought he was Miguel’s father as I have seen him together with Miguel’s mother on that day. He wore a green shirt, leather jacket and a cap.”
The witness said later that day, while he was training at Asherville sportsground in the area, he was approached by Miguel’s mother, Raylene.
“She came to the grounds and asked if anyone was from Rippon Primary. I raised my hand and she asked if I had seen him with an Indian or coloured man. I said Indian and she burst out crying.”
Outlining the State’s case, senior prosecutor Kalvin Singh said that while a cause of death for the boy could not be determined because of decomposition, there were considerations for how he had died.
“Suffocation should be considered for cause of death. The body was, however, too badly decomposed to determine this.”
Ebrahim – who was the last person seen with Miguel at a KFC in Sydenham on July 17 – is accused of murder, theft and kidnapping.
His attorney, Jay Naidoo, said: “He denies all charges.”
With the exception of Ebrahim, the mood in the courtroom was sombre with many family and residents wearing T-shirts with Miguel’s face emblazoned on them.
The case continues on Wednesday.