I currently live in a small town just outside of Bradford and recently saw an article that outlined unsolved murder cases in the city. This one I found particularly sad. The unsolved murder of Nobantu ‘Mandy’ Zani is a common tale of us getting things wrong. She was only fifteen years old and to this day no-one has ever been held to account for this child’s death. Unlike mere mortals like myself this teenage runaway comes from a family peppered with historic names and events. All the more tragic is the fact that her family escaped danger only to place her unwittingly in harms way.
Mandy, as she was known, was a girl who had been brought to Britain by her mother from South Africa in 1990. Her father, Thamsaqa ‘Thami’ ka Mnyele, was shot dead by security forces in 1985. He had been an active member of a branch of the ANC. In fact he had been a pivotal figure and was counted as a friend and colleague of Steve Biko.
As a result Mandy’s mother was granted political refugee status in 1987. Nobantu and her brothers remained in South Africa with their grandmother until money could be raised to unite them in Britain.
So along with her brothers Nobantu arrives in the gloom of West Yorkshire from the sun of South Africa at ten years of age. I’m a working class lad and my school was not up to much. I hope you will take my word for it that I’m not looking down on the area or the school that took Nobantu on. Let me just say it was a challenge for her. Her mother was trying to continue studies in Humberside and often the kids would have to get themselves up and out while she travelled to college. They didn’t always.
By the time she went missing she was at odds with her mother and to some extent the system. She seldom went to school and her mother could not prevent her going out all night.
On 9th September she was seen for the last time by her family. On the 16th September 1995 she was at a party in Manningham, Bradford. She had been frequenting the area and also staying with friends for some time. I will say that no-one wants their fifteen year old to be out and about like Mandy was but particularly in areas like that.
When her mother, Mercy, was told that Mandy’s body had been found on 30th September 1995 she had not been reported missing. They thought she was with friends. In fairness the family had been saying loudly to authorities that Mandy could not be controlled and was at risk.
Her mother had warned Mandy of the dangers. Tragically the teenager had not taken the warnings seriously. Only about a ten minute drive from me is the recreational area called St Ives. It was there, near a spot called Druids Altar, that Mandy was found. This is an outcrop of rock and her body was covered with branches beside it. Her own scarf was wrapped around her neck.
30 detectives tried to find out what had happened to her and it is believed she died close to 16th September but in any case by 20th September.
The Cause of Death was Not Certain
Her body was in a state of decomposition and although the pathologist was of the opinion she had been strangled his office could not rule out death by alcohol poisoning or something similar. It was also possible she had died from a blow to the head. It was certainly widely held that the city had a murder on its hands though. It is recorded as such to this day.
I have lived a life for sure and have come across many stories like that told by the family. Often the background of the constant ‘runaway’ is shrouded in mystery. I mean why would a kid do the whole dangerous run-around thing? Here though what happened to this girl’s father is plain enough to understand and therefore the effect it could have had on her.
The family claim that they were told there was nothing social services could do because of financial constraints. I’m not knocking the social services I am merely sad that nothing could be done for whatever reason. Then again I know from my time, there are so many kids like this that it would be hard to help them all. Especially as many don’t want to be helped. Another point I would make is that the public sometimes feel that kids like this should be detained somehow. The powers don’t always exist. Even when they do as soon as they are home a house is not a prison. Within hours or days they are out and gone again.
I don’t have a lot of detail on this case. I just put it up because she should not have died this way and maybe, just maybe this might remind someone of what happened.
I would like to suggest the below which are similar in some regards.