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Jo'Burg Days: When The Builders Came In

Barbara Durlacher tells a story of enforced guilt.

She noticed the pair as she passed the golf course. He, a young, black man in gardener’s overalls; she, a child of light with blonde curls, dimpled cheeks and a sky-blue dress.

Clutching her yellow giraffe, dummy plugged securely in place, she rode his shoulders easily.

Slowing down, she turned to look at them again as he swung the pretty child to the ground and bent to open a door in the wall. It was obvious the child was unafraid. She probably knew him from his duties around the house and garden. Worried, she pulled to the side, the cooling engine ticking softly.

Observing them in the rear mirror, she saw him nuzzling the child and her laughing responses and wondered whether she should walk over and remonstrate.

‘Really, it’s not my business! Her nanny should look after her. Lazy, irresponsible parents.’ she thought, switching on the engine as her mind turned to other things.

Once or twice during the next few weeks she drove the same route, and always glanced at the high wall surrounding house the big house. She couldn’t help noticing the strong iron door which she presumed closed off the meter box and water mains.

‘Family’s probably away on holiday,’ she thought, ‘Haven’t seen the gardener and that pretty child for a long time now.’

Weeks later, the headline caught her eye as she stopped at the robot. ‘Three year old sexually assaulted, murdered. Builders find body stuffed in hole in garden wall.’

‘I knew something was wrong. I’ll never forgive myself for not speaking to that man. I’m as guilty as he is.’

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