A Piet Retief, Mpumalanga, man who brutally assaulted a 2-year-old boy for soiling himself, burnt him with boiling water and later buried him in a shallow grave has been handed a life sentence.

After the severe beatings over 36 hours, as well as scalding him with boiling water, Boy Nhleko and his girlfriend put a blanket on the severely injured child and went to a party.

When they returned and found him dead, they buried him in a shallow grave and travelled to Eswatini to visit Nhleko’s brother. Unable to live with the guilt of murdering a child, Nhleko confessed to his brother, who informed the police.

It was while he was crossing back into South Africa that he was arrested and charged with the child’s murder.

According to Colonel Donald Mdhluli of the Mpumalanga police, the murdered boy was Nhleko’s girlfriend’s nephew – he was her brother’s child.

He said the brother’s wife, who had recently found a job elsewhere, had approached Nhleko’s girlfriend and asked her to be the child’s nanny and live with him full-time. She said she would pay them.

In October last year, shortly after the boy started living with his aunt, he soiled himself. Angered by that, the aunt beat him, then asked Nhleko to take over the beating.

The police said Nhleko beat the child with a belt, tree branches and later with an electric cable, police said.

“Subsequently after the assault, Nhleko then boiled water and poured it in a basin where he senselessly forced the child in, resulting in the boy sustaining serious burn wounds.

“Instead of seeking medical care for the child, Nhleko and his lover unashamedly left the child to die under a blanket whilst they enjoyed themselves at a local traditional function as well as watched movies.

“They then concealed their evil deeds by burying the boy in a shallow grave.”

Mdluli said Nhleko and the aunt left for the Kingdom of Eswatini, where he confided to his brother he had “committed an atrocious act” in South Africa and also explaining the details.

“His brother, in turn, felt compelled to report the matter to the police and Nhleko was ultimately arrested at Mahamba border as he was coming back to South Africa, a week after the murder. During the investigation, Nhleko pointed out the place where he had buried the boy.”

Handing down judgment in the Mpumalanga High Court on Monday, Acting Judge Takalani Vincent Ratshibvumo said the way the murder was committed suggested Nhleko did not value the sanctity of life.

He said the child had been in agony for 36, waiting for death to eventually come – which it later did.

Judge Ratshibvumo also indicated Nhleko had become impatient with the child whereas when he (Nhleko) had soiled himself as a child, no one had killed him.