Investigating officer in the murder of Stacha Arends, 11, Detective Monditno Haywood, 36, said the field along Swartklip Road where her naked body was found, was one of the most disturbing crime scenes he has ever been called out to (“Missing girl found dead,” Plainsman, March 29).
Detective Haywood, who has been with the police for the past 13 years, said a trace operation led to the alleged perpetrator in the murder, Randy Tango, 31, being arrested.
“I’m not at liberty to speak in detail about the case as it is still ongoing. I was disturbed by the image of the body of the lifeless girl because I myself have a daughter, so I feel for the family.”
Detective Haywood said at the start of his career he was stationed at Cape Town International Airport. “An opportunity then arose for me to either join the City’s Law Enforcement Unit or the police.
“I opted to join the police due to the opportunities for growth and the SAPS represented more of a challenge for me,” he said.
The unassuming Detective Haywood told the Plainsman he is part of the Serious and Violent Crimes Unit which focuses on murders, attempted murders, house, business and armed robberies, and kidnapping.
“My job is very intense. The shifts I work include being on standby from 7.30am until 7.30am the next morning as well as working a weekend shift once a month from 7.30am on the Friday until 7.30am the following Monday.”
So what does a typical day in the life of a detective entail?
He has to be present at all of the autopsies connected to his cases, to instruct the coroner on which tests needs to be conducted on the body and to collect any evidence found on the bodies of the victims.
“I regularly have to go to Salt River Mortuary. It smells of decaying flesh and you have to have a strong stomach to see the cut open cadavers.”
But, he said: “I have become used to it, even dodging the blood splatters. I have never vomited at the sight of a dead body. It has been quiet recently, with only three murders taking place from March until now,” he added.
After every gruesome crime scene or crime he investigates Detective Haywood goes through a debriefing session to ensure he is in a healthy head space.
Detective Haywood said the images of the charred remains of a man who was set alight in Rocklands still stay with him.
“This case is currently at the regional court. The victim was assaulted, his skull was fractured by a sledgehammer and his body was burnt beyond recognition.”
Detective Haywood has also found himself in a few adrenalin-pumping situations.
“When I was working at the Organised Crime Unit spearheaded by former Mitchell’s Plain SAPS cluster commander General Jeremy Vearey, I was sent out on a trace operation involving Bradley ‘Kleinkop’ Parkins and after jumping out of a vehicle during the chase, the car in front of us reversed into me. The driver said he thought we wanted to hijack him. I broke my left knee and was hospitalised for a month.
“In a separate operation, in Athlone two suspects on a motorbike started shooting at us. Nobody was injured,” he said.
During these tense situations, Detective Haywood employs his tactical police training which entails, among other things, taking cover and using a car as a shield.
He told the Plainsman that he and Sergeant Miriam Booysen had been instrumental in starting the Victim Support Unit at the station some years back. “I do this job to serve the community and make a difference,” he said. The community has a negative perception about the police and we are trying to change that. However, to solve cases we need residents to come forward with information.
“The police have a reward system for information and people can register; be given a handler or co-handler and provide the police with information on an anonymous basis with no other parties involved.”
He urged the youth to consider joining SAPS as there are many varying opportunities within the service.
“You could be a psychiatrist, investigating officer, photographer, human resources officer or become involved in the legal services department at the police. All you need, is dedication and commitment,” he said.