Botha’s gruesome discovery on September 4 brought an end to her Eastern Cape family’s hopes that the bubbly young woman they called “Koeksie” would be found alive.
Although there was little left of her body – just a few bones and teeth – Hamann’s four rings were identified by family members, who broke down when they realised this was all that was left of their beloved Nicolene.
Hamann’s family had spent a distressing month agonising about what had become of her after her husband, Ebrahim Hamann called her sister Nolene Hendricks, 30, to say she had disappeared from her bed on the morning of July 20.
“He called to say that the devil had come into the house and taken her,” said Hendricks, who lives in Buffalo Flats and enjoyed a very close relationship with her sister.
She said Nicolene’s 15-year marriage to Hamann began to crumble about a year ago when he learnt she was having an affair.
“She must have had a premonition, because shortly before she disappeared she grabbed me by the arm and said ‘if I die promise me you will take the children’.”
Fighting back tears Nicolene’s mother Theresa Langley, who lives in Stutterheim, said her daughter had feared for her life.
“A week before she died she said ‘you don’t believe me but you will find my body’.”
Langley and Hendricks visited Harding after the disappearance and found Nicolene’s clothes, watch and make-up intact.
“Only her bag was missing. Also we knew she would never leave her children and it was not like her not to contact us,” said Hendricks.
Her mother never gave up hope, and worried she was being held somewhere.
Calls from her husband that she had been seen around KZN were investigated, but all came to nothing.
A month after her disappearance family spokeswoman Laverne Jacobs hired Christian Botha.
“All the way we were hoping he would find her alive, but two weeks after we first spoke to him he phoned to say he had found her but she was not alive,” said Jacobs.
“When Laverne called me to come see her I had a very bad feeling about my daughter,” said Langley. “I fell down and cried and cried. Then I was told there is no body. I could not believe someone could just burn her. We immediately drove to Harding.”
“It was like someone tore a piece of my heart out,” said Hendricks.
Botha, who carried out preliminary investigations into the case before travelling to KZN, said he tracked down Nicolene’s cellphone, which had been picked up and sold by two women recycling waste at a rubbish tip in Harding.
“They showed me where they found the phone and I noticed that two or three metres away there was a whole lot of ash.
“I went through it and found a human tooth and then some finger bones, so I called the organised crime unit and we found four rings that were positively identified by Nicolene’s friends.
“It was a very hard call to make to let her family know because I knew how special she was to them,” he said, adding he had worked hand-in-hand with KZN police on the matter.
“Whoever did this should rot in jail for the rest of their lives,” said Langley.
Warrant Officer Abraham Sonnekus, the investigating officer in the matter, said police were waiting for DNA test results to come back from the forensic laboratory. “We expect to make two arrests once the results are back,” he said.